Evo Morales, Economic Success Can Never Justify Autocracy
The legalistic formula the Bolivian leader has found to perpetuate his presidency is despotic and shameful.
Bolivia's Constitutional Court has given the socialist president, Evo Morales, the green light to run for a fourth presidential term.
Shame on Morales. In 2016, he organized a referendum to the same end and lost, with 51% of Bolivians opposing a fourth term. Morales publicly conceded defeat and accepted not to run again. But now, in a move that runs contrary to the most basic democratic principles, he has found a way to ignore the outcome of the poll.
He asked the party that he himself had founded, the ruling Movement To Socialism (MAS), to argue before the Constitutional Court that restricting the number of presidential terms, as dictated by Bolivia's Constitution, violated the president's human rights.
The Bolivian government under Morales, and Ecuador's last government, headed until recently by President Rafael Correa, are often placed in the same bag as Venezuela under President Nicolás Maduro. But though they share a socialist discourse and anti-American rhetoric, and vote as a bloc at many international assemblies, they are far from being the same.
The Morales government, to begin with, has been successful from an economic and social point of view. The country has grown on average 5% a year in the last decade, with an impressive 6.8% growth in 2013. The International Monetary Fund expects Bolivia's economy to grow 4.2% this year, at the highest rate in South America. In his time in office, Morales has reduced poverty and inequality in the country, notably fueling consumption and prompting the creation of numerous businesses in all sectors. The mere fact that Bolivia has an indigenous president from the Aymará nation speaks of the advances made in the realm of socio-political inclusion, and there are even signs of improvement with the endemic problem of public sector corruption.
A fourth mandate lacks democratic legitimacy and constitutes an abuse of power
But these achievements do not entitle the Morales government to perpetuate itself indefinitely.
Even if the economy keeps growing under the next administration, a fourth mandate lacks democratic legitimacy and constitutes an abuse of power. In the medium and long term, this move foreshadows further abuses and the complete deterioration of democracy.
The recent amendment allows Morales to run for the presidency not just a fourth time, but as many times as he wishes. It looks too much like an autocratic regime that might not even groom a potential successor in case Morales needs to step down because of old age or poor health.
It appears Morales wants to be president for life. That can only presage more concentration of power, more arbitrary decisions and opportunities for corruption — and, ultimately, a return to Bolivia's despotic past.