Friday, July 22, 2005

Evo's Election Chances - MABB vs. COHA

I was alerted to this article by Boz and Barrioflores . It comes from left-leaning Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), which in the 80's were the usual Sandinista and FMLN apologists.

This is clearly the type of laudatory view of "Evo the Indigenous Hero” view that drives even Jim Schultz to qualify it as 'lazy analysis'.

Morales has gained considerable renown from his daily exposure in the local and international press. The former coca union icon and legislative leader now occupies a particularly strategic position and is poised to benefit from the early presidential elections.

Wrong, Evo has a constituency, but is nowhere near a majority as an individual candidate, nor is MAS in any way a 'majority' party, something that Jim Schultz essentially admits in this fairly objective read - b/t/w I do get my rear handed to me (justifiably) in the comments section through a dumb basic error.
What I do recommend, is MABB's excellent breakdown, using his own graphs of Evo Morales' support, as viewed through the past elections.

Take a look at MAS representation in the legislature after the elections.

The MAS, has been, ever since 2002, the main opposition force in Congress. However, as we can see, it has not been able to make much of a mark. MAS has controlled 27 of the 130 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 8 of the 27 seats in the Senate. These numbers are not enough to exert any significant influence in Congress. MAS has therefore been largely marginalized because its political line has not coincided with that of the other players. The only alternative left to it, at least based on its actions, has been to incite protest on the streets.

Evo, has less than a third the seats in Congress, and almost a third in the Senate. This is the result of fair elections, and meanwhile, the usual suspects on the left somehow think he is entitled to bring down two presidents???

MABB then shows the geographical distributions of deputies elected directly in another graph.

We can clearly discover some geographic political preferences. For example we can see that Santa Cruz is MNR country. Personally, I was under the impression that the MIR had much support in this region. Moreover, it is also clear that the MNR has wide support in the other two eastern departamentos, Pando and Beni. We can also see the remnants of ADN in Pando. Another interesting thing to observe is what happens in La Paz. In this departamento we can find a diversity of political currents, with two parties capturing the most support. MIR has the upper hand, and here I speculate that this support is in the city of La Paz where most of the middle class lives. By contrast the MIP (Felipe Quispe) has a firm grip on the Altiplano Aymaras. What is also interesting is to see the size of that electorate. Of course we also see that Tarija, not surprisingly, is MIR country. This is due to the fact that its leader, Jaime Paz Zamora is a Tarijeno.

As for the issue at hand, from the graphic we can see that MAS has support in the departamentos of Cochabamba, Potosi, Oruro, La Paz and Sucre (in descending order). Support for MAS is stronger in Cochabamba, where it emerged as a political force and Potosi. Surprisingly, support for MAS in La Paz is only marginal. People wrongly tend to automatically attribute all the activity in the city of El Alto to Evo Morales. Now we can clearly see that while there is some common ground between the activists in El Alto and Evo, that doesn't mean that Evo enjoys wide support by Altenos. It is also worth highlighting the lack of support for MAS in the Eastern regions, Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando plus Tarija. This is the so called Media Luna (for its resemblance to a half moon) region, which is currently pushing the autonomic movement.

This geographic distribution of support for parties and personalities is well known by Bolivians but seldom gets objectively stated in foreign media, and in the propaganda put out by the neo-luddite NGO crowd.

What should be eye-opening to people, is how MABB shows Evo's surpringly low standing in La Paz - and even in El Alto his supposed core of support. The answer is partially that many poor Bolivians are 'informal' and formal entrepeneurs, who make their money through trade. Blockages of roads, can tick them off, and mess with their livelihood. Others depend on construction work, which also disapears when roads are closed and supplies are not available. People forget that many of these small empresarios voted for Goni.

While some may sympathize with 'nationalization' cries, they want open roads, and to be able to buy and sell freely.

Tuto Quiroga who is strong in his native Cochabamba, also benefits in other areas - as recent polls show he is even close to Evo in El Alto. As Banzer's VP and then successor, he clearly represents a Law and Order platform that carries some weight.

The MNR's standing in the highland departments of La Paz, Sucre, and Oruru, shows the name still carries some weight, with urban and rural dwellers, owing partially to the fact it was the party of the National Revolution of 1952. Many people outside of Bolivia, forget this was the party that enacted agrarian reform and nationalized the mining industry.
The MIR is also popular in some of those same areas. People on the left are quick to label this party negatively, but many Bolivians also remember the MIR as the party that really stood up to the last military dictatorship, paying a cost in blood, and whose leader barely survived the sabotage of his airplane by thugs.

All in all, the bottom line is that these traditional parties, and even new parties emerging from old established roots, still have significant pull in all of Bolivia. Since their ideology is not that far apart, as a block they are a significant counter-weight to MAS-Evo, and they will cut deals to cut Evo out.

MABB's conclusion on Evo and MABB is spot on:

The Movement Towards Socialism has therefore shown itself as one of the major political forces in Bolivian politics. What it hasn't shown is either its ability to make that leap from a strong alternative party to a strong leading party and its ability to form alliances with other forces. This last characteristic is indispensable if MAS is to get to the presidency.