By Darcy Leigh
On 18 December 2005, Evo Morales of the MAS (Movimento al
Socialismo, Movement Towards Socialism) won 54% of the vote in the
Bolivian presidential elections - the highest support for any
candidate in Bolivia since the restoration of "democracy" in the
1980s. Turnout was 85% which was also much higher than in previous
Bolivian elections. Morales is due to become the first indigenous
president in a country that has a large indigenous majority.
The MAS also won 78 members of congress, with another 78 going to
right wing parties and one to the indigenous party, MIP. This means
that the left have a majority in congress. However of 27 senators
only 12 are from MAS.
The MAS victory came about despite thousands of potential supporters
"disappearing" from the electoral register. Lois Gomez, a Mexican
journalist, reports that, "In Pongo, an Aymara highland community
loyal to the MAS, 1,200 out of a total 1,800 voters were purged [from
the electoral roll]."
Since the election, Morales has stated his plans to begin to turn the
Bolivian economy away from the unbridled free market direction it has
been heading in. This includes the introduction of a new tax on the
wealthy and increased state control over the country's huge gas
reserves. He has pledged to cut his and his cabinet's salary by half
as well as reducing the allowance of parliamentary members. Morales
has also said he plans to rewrite the constitution to include more
rights for Bolivia's indigenous majority.
However the main trade union federation, the COB, and the teachers'
union are sceptical about the credibility of Morales' plans to solve
the problem facing workers. Morales seems to have presented a
different picture to the media than he has to radical groups. He has
used the idea of increased state intervention in the gas industry to
gain votes from the left, who are calling for nationalisation, whilst
telling the media that all is plans is higher taxes on corporations.
Since the election, Morales has met with Castro, Chavez and Gaddafi.
These relationships, alongside his pledge to loosen controls on the
growth of the coca plant in Bolivia, have lead Morales to describe
himself as a "US nightmare". Perhaps. But not a working-class dream.