Bolivian right attempts to disqualify Evo Morales’ MAS party from upcoming elections

Former Bolivian president Evo Morales condemned the attempt, saying that with the banning of the party, the opposition wants to achieve “what they cannot achieve at the polls”

July 21, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Bolivian right-wing opposition is trying to outlaw MAS presidential candidate, Luis Arce, over an alleged violation of electoral laws. Photo: La Razón

Bolivia’s coup-installed government, on July 20, filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) to disqualify the presidential candidate of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), Luis Arce. The alliance that supports the coup regime, Juntos, requested that Arce be banned from running in the general elections scheduled for September 6, over an alleged violation of electoral laws.

The ruling alliance claims that Arce allegedly violated electoral law by mentioning a recent opinion poll on the presidential race, outside the time frame allowed by the rules. The Article 136 III of Election Law no. 26 prohibits parties from sharing the details of opinion polls before the beginning of campaigning period. In an interview, Arce was asked about internal polls and he said generally he was leading, without sharing the details.

In a bid to bar MAS and its members, last week, political leaders from right-wing Juntos and Creemos parties threatened to take legal action against Arce for alleged electoral irregularities.

Former Bolivian president Evo Morales denounced the threat against his party’s candidate. “Once again, the right-wing tries to outlaw MAS by inventing a violation for commenting on opinion polls’ data. However, Juntos‘ vice-presidential candidate, Samuel Doria Medina, commented on and published opinion polls twice, but they all remained silent,” wrote Morales in a tweet on July 18.

In another tweet, Morales said that “the right-wing is trying at all costs to remove our candidate, Luis Arce, from the electoral race, deliberately ignoring the difference between commenting and disseminating.”

On July 19, MAS denounced that different political forces have even begun a pressure campaign to the TSE to disqualify the party from the upcoming elections and cancel its legal status. In a statement, MAS said that this is “a new attempt to ban the party representing the indigenous peasant movement, workers and popular sectors, therefore, a state of emergency has been declared.” The party demanded that the transitional government and political parties respect the independence of the electoral entity.

Ousted president Morales also condemned the attempt. “We strongly condemn the attempts of some politicians who want to achieve, through the banning of our political instrument, what they cannot achieve at the polls,” tweeted Morales on July 19.

Earlier last week, on July 15, Luis Fernando Camacho, one of the key leaders behind the violent civic-military coup against Morales in November 2019 and current presidential candidate, appealed to the Organization of American States (OAS) to stop the democratic elections taking place on September 6. In the appeal, Camacho argued that “we must not allow the elections to become an act of resurrection” for MAS. He called for the suspension of elections, using as a pretext the worsening of the health crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to this, Morales spoke out on Twitter and said that “asking the OAS to rule on the suspension of the elections in Bolivia is a new blow against democracy. It is a form of intervention against the sovereignty of the State and the dignity of the people; and furthermore it is being asked by those responsible for the tragic events of 2019.”

In face of the opposition’s desperate call for postponing the elections, MAS demanded respect for the election date suggested by the TSE. The party added that the change in the election date would generate discontent among the majority of the population and would generate clashes and chaos, which could increase the risk of contagion. The residents of the working class district of K’ara K’ara in Cochabamba city have been mobilizing against Áñez’s mishandling of the health and economic emergencies caused by the pandemic since May 11.

Social movements, Indigenous organizations and trade unions denounced Camacho’s appeal as an open call to the OAS to launch a second coup if Arce wins the presidential election. Bolivia’s trade union center, Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), also demanded “adhesion to September 6 as the election date.”

The US and the OAS backed coup administration of Jeanine Áñez came to power in November after Morales was forced out of office, following the falsified allegations of electoral fraud in October 2019 general elections, which have been subsequently debunked by researchers from the US.

Morales won a clear fourth-term victory in October and MAS still maintains significant popular support in Bolivia. The latest opinion polls ratify that it will likely win upcoming elections. The right-wing opposition parties are desperate to thwart this.

Last month, Arce’s Twitter account was banned as part of the ongoing political tussle. In January, the coup regime tried to impede Arce’s participation in the elections by filing a false corruption case against him.

In February, the TSE barred Morales from participating in the elections as a candidate for the Senate, arguing that he did not meet the requirement of permanent residence in Bolivia. Morales is living in the neighboring country, Argentina, as a political refugee.

According to the results of the opinion polls on voting intentions by the Latin American Strategic Centre for Geopolitics (CELAG), released on July 7, Luis Arce is poised to win the elections in the first-round with 41.9% of the votes and a lead of 15% over the nearest rival. The opinion poll places Carlos Mesa of Citizen Community (CC), a center-right political coalition, on the second position with 26.8% votes. The de-facto president and presidential candidate of Juntos, Jeanine Áñez, is in third place with 13.3% of votes. Luis Camacho of the right-wing Creemos party is on number 4 with 9.1% of the votes.