Monday, December 19, 2005

Evo Morales, Presidente (Update 1)

Evo Morales has won the Bolivian elections with 50.9% of the vote, preliminary results show. Tuto Quiroga comes in second with 31,9% of the vote and a majority in the Senate. The great losers in this election have been UN, which only managed 8% of the vote and NFR, which got less than 1% of the votes after coming third (with just 0.3% less than MAS) just three years ago. MNR, on the hand, is the great survivor, with 6,7% of the vote, a Senator and 8 MPs (members of parliament). This is a great result for them considering that their last elected official (Gonzalo Sanchez) is an extremely hated figure.

Now, in the following picture, from Santa Cruz' daily El Deber we see the percentages obtained by all parties, but most interestingly, the East-West divide in the vote. In all blue regions, the winner was MAS and in all red regions, the winner was Podemos. Regional interests appear clear: The East, usually seen as a most progressive and richer region, has opted for Podemos over MAS. All the talk of nationalization and a strong state does not appear to fare well here. This, however, does not mean that MAS did not get a surprise second place in Santa Cruz, which signals that MAS' discourse better accepted in rural areas than previously thought. Further North, though, MAS did not repeat the success, as it was not even close to second in Pando and Beni.
In the West, MAS won its stronghold departments and managed to win departments that were thought to lean on Quiroga's favour, such as Potosi and Chuquisaca. Podemos, however, managed to get second places in all these regions, so that they get one senator for each Blue department.

All in all, the parliament is going to look as in the second picture, also from El Deber. The first interesting thing to notice is that Podemos, which is trailing by 20% in the general vote, has a majority in the Senate. This is due because Podemos either won or came second in all regions. MAS did not do as well in the North East, as previoulsy stated, so, no Senators for these regions. In the lower house, MAS do get half the congressmen and have a sizeable 20 MP difference with Podemos. Interestingly, even if we were to sum all centre-right parties, MAS is still the majority: Podemos (45) plus UN (10), MNR (8) and NFR (1) amount only 64 MPs. On the other side of the spectrum, MIP's only MP is probably going to be closer to MAS, giving the left a total of 66 MPs.

Now, to the third topic: prefects. According to a simulation done by Apoyo Opinion y Mercado, MAS has not won a single prefect, while Podemos has won 6 and different citizen groups the other 3 (the citizen group in Cochabamba is aligned with the now-extinct NFR and the one in Tarija with MNR), although MAS may still win in Potosi. This means that most of Morales' activities will be well chequed in the regions. Expect the prefects of Santa Cruz and Tarija to pose a great threat to MAS plans of hydrocarbon nationalization: the Santa Cruz prefect, from a citizen group called Autonomia Para Bolivia (Autonomy for Bolivia), will probably start pushing hard towards more departmental autonomy from the start. Mario Cossio should follow suit.

Update 1: It seems that Apoyo Opinion y Mercado has, once again, failed tremendously in its simulations. For a more accurate description of the prefect election, see the graph below, from El Deber. It seems that MAS is ahead in two regions -Potosi and Chuquisaca- and has won in a third one, Oruro. Also, the MAS candidate for the Tarija prefecture is disputing the result on grounds that, according to him, Mario Cossio has colluded with the CNE in order to 'depure' up to 70,000 voters, all of whom were his supporters (!).
The rest of the results are unchanged.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bolivian Elections: Latest

According to La Prensa's exit polls results, MAS is winning the election with 44,5% of the vote, followed by Podemos (34,3%) and UN (11,7%). Michiaki Nagatani is fourth with 7,2%. The rest of the parties sum less than 2% between them

Friday, December 16, 2005

A footnote and Sunday's election

I was just reading a paper by Overland et al (2005) on political instability (one of the big topics in my thesis) and found a very interesting footnote that deals with how politics work in several countries, many of which are Latin American.
The paper basically develops a model on how a (endogenous) probability of political catastrophe affects growth in dictatorships.
The footnote in question says that
Barro (1996a) states: “. . . the effects of an autocracy are adverse, however, if the dictator uses his or her power to steal the nation’s wealth . . . .” Bardhan (1997) writes, “when public resources meant for building productivity-enhancing infrastructure are diverted for politicians’” private consumption . . . growth rates obviously will be adversely affected.” De Long (1997) lists a group of countries in which “. . . the average person is probably poorer in absolute terms than their counterparts back in 1965 . . . .” This group includes Mozambique, Togo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Senegal, Ghana, Zaire (now Republic of Congo), Uganda, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador, Peru, Nicaragua, and Jamaica. De Long attributes these countries’ steady decline to “Government by Thieves” or "kleptocracy” – situations where the leaders have “sacrificed economic development and the long-run interests of all to the short run interests of a relative few” (Ch. 21: 3).

Most people interested in Latin American politics will find this statement interesting, not least because of the inclusion of Chile -whose government is usually regarded as the most efficient in South America- among the kleptocratic regimes.
Otherwise, it is well-known that elections (at least in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru) usually choose the least-bad candidate rather than the best one. All politicians down there do have skeletons in their closets and reelection has never corrected ther ways.
In the case of Bolivia, it is easy ot single out the incentive problem faced by most politicians: Ever since Bolivians regained democracy (in 1982) not a single time voters have chosen to keep the incumbent party in office. This means that elected officials know they will be on their way out once the 5-year period has passed and instead of focusing on an efficient and transparent rule, they just try to make the most out of it so they never actually need to be reelected.
What happens then is that the kind of people going into politics in Bolivia, are neither the best prepared nor the most idealistic, but the ones who want to make a quick buck or two. Actually, in real life, some years ago a very close friend of mine once heard some guy boasting about his father's contacts with one party, meaning that he would soon be joining as a militant, get a government job, get rich and just enjoy life. It is lucky that since the guy said that, the party he wanted to join is facing extinction, but the attitude remains there. Is there a light in the end of the tunnel when this kind of people is ruling the country? As the Jose Luis Paredes case shows, things have not changed much.
Thus, once again Bolivia goes to the urns on Sunday. The optimal choice is once again unclear. WHile it is clear that Evo Morales is explicitly the worst that can happen a question remains on the competence of their competitors. As Tuco from The Economist en su Laberinto noted when Podemos' plan was first unveiled, Quiroga has been desperate to join the populist bandwagon just to catch more votes. So, other than proposing several subsidies for each and every person, Podemos' plan shines for its lack of realistic proposals. When we match this to the decision to allow all of the political debris from other parties to run under his wing, what do we really get? Simply put, nothing. Doria Medina's UN plan suffers from similar ills. It seems that the most they did was getting a high-profile Cruceno for vice-presidential candidate. Otherwise, UN has looked happy to run for third place, knowing that would mean a place in next government, whatever the results. Interestingly, as Ciao! notes, this plan seems to have backfired.

I guess the only thing left to do now is wait.

BARDHAN, P. (1997): "Corruption and Development: A Review of Issues," Journal of Economic Literature, 35, 1320-46.
BARRO, R. J. (1996): "Democracy and Growth," Journal Of Economic Growth, 1, 1-27.
DE LONG,J. (1997): "Slouching Towards Utopia? The Economic History of the Twentieth Century."
OVERLAND, J., K. L. SIMONS, and M. SPAGAT (2005): "Political Instability and Growth in Dictatorships," Public Choice, 125, 445-470.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Good News

Wandering once again off topic, I am glad to be the bearer of good news. The University of Manchester, where I am currently doing my PhD, has won the Times 2005 University of the year award.
The award was announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said: "Manchester has impressed the whole Higher Education sector by its successful merger last year with UMIST. But what particularly impressed the judges was how, under the leadership of its vice-chancellor Alan Gilbert, Manchester's vision for the future and determination to reinvigorate itself to become one of the top research universities in the world has enthused both staff and students."
Read more here and/or here.

Best for last, though. The University of Manchester has created The Brooks World Poverty Institute, which will be a multidisciplinary research centre for the understanding of the dynamics of poverty with the aim of improving the prospects of those affected. The chair of this new institute will be no other than Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Gordon Brown, welcomed Stiglitz with the following words
“The University is well established as a global leader in economics with a proud history of attracting the very best and most distinguished economists, including during the 20th century, Nobel prize winners John Hicks and Sir Arthur Lewis.
“Today I am delighted that the University is welcoming its first Nobel prize winning economist of the 21 st century – Joseph Stiglitz – a groundbreaking theorist with considerable experience of applying economic theories through his extensive work for national and international government organisations.”

Read more here.
For a video link, go here.
For the centre's page at the university's site, go here.
Finally, for Stiglitz' statement, go here (opens in MSWord).


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Warning: The end of freedom of the press ahead

In today's paper, Evo Morales publicly anounces his plans to put government-controlled radio stations in all provinces in order to control how news are reported. Don't say you voted for/supported Morales because you thought it was going to be different: it's going to be as authoritarian a regime as it can possibly be. This is deeply worrying for those of us of a Libertarian persuasion

Monday, December 05, 2005

Update on MAS' coup threat

Last week, I wrote on the possibility that MAS were already going for the coup. As many people and parties grew concerned, president Rodriguez started to investigate what was behind the claims, only to find Evo Morales accusing him of taking sides and making campaign for Quiroga.
What sickens me about this matter is that he was not so quick to deny Venezuelan interference, and still has to pronounce his position on Brazil's and Argentina's meddling. Yet, when the president of the country he wants to run initiates action to protect democracy, he is taking sides. Would this have happened/cuold Morales accuse Rodriguez of taking sides, if it were not because a Senator in his own party publicly talked about these plans? Of course not. It seems to me that Morales wants to boost his vote by having someone who is supposed to be neutral go against him. After all, it worked miracles last election when the US embassy took sides with MNR, no?

It is also extremely interesting noticing that the "Democracy" Center has not uttered a single word in this respect. Every reader of the center's blog is aware of its writer's biases and preferences, but you would expect an NGO called DEMOCRACY Center to at least express its concern.

Venezuela's elections

Although there has been much said about fraud in the congressal election that took place in Venezuela yesterday, it seems that Chavez has done it again.

A week ago, with the withdrawal of several parties from the race because of the rigged system, many pundits started to predict the fall of Chavez. To add to this feeling of vctory, turnout was extremely low: some sites reported a 90% abstinence rate, while the official figures indicate a 75% one. This finally made clear what the majority of Venezuelans think about how democratic their president is - not that Chavez cares much, though.

In any case, there plenty to be worried about. Both the OAS and the EU watchers said the election was peaceful and without complications and it is unlikely they will comply to the opposition's wishes and denounce at the last moment the presence of fraud, even if this is the case (remember the Carter Centre). Moreover, Chavez, whose party and allies won all seats in the congress, has already referred to the opposition as "illegal parties". In his eyes, this pirric victory was in the end just a victory, as that 25% of voters gave him complete control.

We may have just witnessed the death of Venezuelan democracy.

214 Years Ago

On December 5th, 1791 an incident that has been described by some as the most tragic event in mankind's art history took place: the death of Wolfgang Mozart.
Mozart died because of what is thought to be miliary fever, but that did not stop several, often romantic legends growing around it: that of the messenger in grey, who comissioned a requiem mass for Mozart's own funeral; that of freemasons killing him because of Die Zauberflöte and, obvioulsy, the one made famous in the movie Amadeus, which many filmgoers errouneously think of as an accurate biopic, that states that court composer Antonio Salieri killed him, to name a few. A friend of mine believes in the unorthodox theory that Mozart had to die, because the world could not have had Mozart and Beethoven as contemporaries.
Whatever the truth may be, 214 years ago mankind was deprived of one of history's few true geniuses.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Even more intromissions

According to this news report Venezuela's Chavez and Brazil's Lula are not the only regional presidents showing their support for Morales, as Argentina's

President Kirchner also expressed preference for Mr. Morales in Bolivia's coming December 18 presidential election saying that he has given proof of “caring for people, for his country, for the fair exploitation of his country’s resources”.

I wonder how road blockades and extorsions towards those who do not wish to protest qualify as "caring for people", but, then again, this is Kirchner.

Venezuela and Brazil were quick to dismiss their interferences (although, at least in the case of Chavez, that does not seem truthful), we still have to hear what Argentina has to say. Probably nothing, as most media focused just on Lula.

So much for Morales' take on sovereignty.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Evo Morales' MAS might be planning a coup

The fact that Evo Morales is a threat to democracy is neither new nor open up to discussion: it is simply a fact. What is more worrying and what pushes me to write this last blog are some thoughts on how Evo may be preparing a coup d'etat as you read this. He doesn't care about democracy, geddit?

First, a couple of days ago I read Jim Schultz's blog on Morales strategy. Jim Schultz, for those of you who don't know, is a sandalista activist who, according to some bloggers, is deeply involved in destabilizing Bolivia. He has, according to these accounts, provided the funds (via his NGO) to set up popular protests and throw up two presidents and get rid foreign investment (we should remember that several newspapers have reported that protests are paid by foreign NGOs). Read these perspectives on the "Democracy Center" activities here and here.

In any case, the point I want to make is that there should be few doubts in that he has probably frequent contact with MAS' directives. According to him, if Morales does not win the election with a clear majority, he will withdraw from the race and mount unsurpassable opposition to whomever gets elected (Tuto Quiroga). To be clear, this opposition would come from both the parliament and the streets (it would not matter that he withdrew from the race, he would rally his forces under the pretense that the presidency was "stolen" from him). As we have seen during this year, these protests would probably cause the resignation of Quiroga or an open conflict. Read Jim Schultz' post here.

Now, in today's paper, MAS' senator Roman Loayza stated bluntly that
el jefe de su partido, Evo Morales, será "presidente de a buenas o de a malas" y adelantó que si el candidato de Podemos, Jorge Quiroga, llega a Palacio Quemado en enero próximo "no va a aguantar ni seis meses".

Loayza, quien ofreció una conferencia de Prensa en el Congreso, precisó que las "organizaciones vivas" alistan una movilización "no pacífica" contra los neoliberales y contra los partidos tradicionales si Morales no llega a la Presidencia de la República por efecto de las elecciones del 18 de diciembre.

"Ya tenemos conversado con algunos militares y con algunos de la policía, posiblemente sin echar sangre vamos a entrar al Palacio (...) en este momento no puedo aclarar sus nombres, hemos hablado con generales, con coroneles y como también con los policías, ellos están incluso haciendo campaña para el MAS", afirmó Loayza.

SO, according to him, Evo Morales will reach the presidency through whatever means ar necessary, so that in case Quiroga gets elected president, he "won't last six months". He adds that a "non-pacific" (i.e. violent) movilization is being prepared against neo-liberals and traditional parties, in case Morales does not become president. Finally, he adds that Morales will enter the palace "probably without spilling blood", as they already have police and army officials under their wing.

If I am reading both parts correctly, Morales is going for the coup. According to Jim Schultz, Morales does not want to compromise, he wants unconstrained power. Since he will not win 50% of the vote, if we are to listen to that blog, Quiroga is already the next president. That means that, if we are to listen to the MAS senator, violent struggle will start soon after and end with MAS taking office by force.

One thing missing from this is Quiroga's stand, though. First of all, if Quiroga was to be the next president, he is not as bland as Mesa was. So, expect violent protesters to be treated with their own medicine. At least I hope so. And second, if he perceives that his term would be too weak, he could force Morales to be next president. He could do so by stalling the first two parliamentary votes so that Evo Morales automatically becomes president without UN support. This would mean that almost all congress would be opposition (with more than half of the senate), ready to block his every move and force him out of office.

In any case, I hope everybody starts noticing the danger Morales is for democracy.

Update: Garcia Linera has said that the the position of the abovementioned senator is not the official position of MAS. He tried to explain the statement with the lamest excuse: "maybe what he wanted to say was that if things get stuck, there could be a violent solution" (read it here). How is this any better?!? Also, remember that on November 14, however, he called the MAS constituency in the Altiplano to be "on alert", ready to defend the triumph of Evo, if the oil companes or embassies try to rob them. Read "non-pacific movilizations".

Update 2: Senator Loayza has said that the media took him out of context. When presented to the recorded speech, he admitted saying what he said but attributed it to confusion between Quechua (his mother tongue) and Spanish. If anything, I don't believe that his statements had particularly bad grammar, structure or pronunciation. It were the ideas that were dangerous, so I guess that this is just another excuse. More here.

Update 3: Quiroga has asked for the sacking of senator Loayza. Morales stresses that he does not represent MAS, which he sees a democratic party, and expressed his anguish towards the comments. Nonetheless, Morales explained that he himself has not heard the recordings and that Loayza told him, twice, that he was taken out of context. He responded Quiroga's pleas for sacking the senator by saying that Loayza's future in MAS depends on the social movements, not on him.