Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Five (Unconstitutional) Proposals

It has been some time since my last post, mostly because Bolivia is the country where everything happens, but nothing changes. The Parliament is still debating the redistribution of congressional seats (which bores me and annoys me to death) and probably will do so for some time. As a result, the December 4 elections have been postponed to God knows when. The issue of redistribution has become, as most serious political issues in the hands of our legislators, nothing but an unfunny joke.

The latest bit is that they are trying to decide among 5 different options how redistribute seats. The five options are:

1. Proposed by MNR MP (member of parliament) Oscar Sandoval.
Two more seats for Santa Cruz: Sandoval presented a project in which he proposes giving two more seats to Santa Cruz at the expense of Oruro and Potosi, without taking a single seat from La Paz and without giving anything to Cochabamba.

2. Proposed by the President of the Republic, Eduardo Rodriguez.
Equity for the smaller regions: Rodriguez' project states maintaining the equity criteria for the smaller regions, giving them five seats each and redistribute the remaining seats according to population. He also proposes two extra seats for Santa Cruz at the expense of Oruro and Potosi.

3. Proposed by ex-vicepresident Luis Ossio.
Increase the number of seats in the lower house. The proposal is to increase the total number of seats to 145, giving 5 extra seats to Santa Cruz, 3 to Cochabamba and one to each of the remaining seven regions.

4. Cochambamba MP Rene Jaldin
Increase the number of seats in the lower house. This proposal recommends to give four extra seats to Santa Cruz and two to Cochabamba (as the Constitution dictates) without taking any seats from the other regions, thus increasing the number of MPs to 136.

5. Proposed by Senator Leopoldo Fernandez.
Distribution based on percentages. He suggests three seats for Santa Cruz and one for Cochabamba, at the expense of La Paz, which would lose two seats, Potosi and Beni, which would lose one seat each. This project has not reached the lower house yet.

It is amazing, then, that you have 5 different projects to choose from, and none is constitutional. At least, as I understand things, the constitution is very clear. For each election you should redistribute 130 parliamentary seats according to the last census. Thus, regions whose population increase is higher gain seats and regions with lower population increase lose seats. Simple as that. In this case, Santa Cruz has to gain four seats, Cochabamba two and La Paz, Oruro and Potosi lose seats. Any other solution does not abide by the constitution.

So, proposals like 1 and 2, where the idea is to give Santa Cruz two seats (two seats? based on what, exactly? why not one? or three?) are nothing but a polite way of telling Santa Cruz to stop bothering and fuck off, literally. In a similar vein, where in the constitution is it stated that seats can be increased at will, just to keep one or two regions happy? Nowhere. So, proposals 3 and 4 are just unconstitutional ways of keeping La Paz, Potosi and Oruro calm. Proposal 5 is just an hybrid, and should not be taken seriously, at least until it reaches the lower house.

Why don't we have at least one proposal where Santa Cruz gains four seats, Cochabamba gains two, and La Paz, Oruro and Potosi lose seats, while the total number of seats remains unchanged, as the Constitutional Tribunal said? Post your answers in hte comments section, please.

There is an upside to this mess, though. In case Evo Morales wins the next elections and tries to pull a Chavez by rewriting the constitution, it is relaxing to know that not even legislators take the constitution seriously.

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