How Evo Morales running again — and again — undermines Bolivia’s democracy

Cancillería del Ecuador / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

On Oct. 20, Bolivian President Evo Morales will go to the polls in search of a fourth term. Victory would extend his time in office to almost two decades, and — depending on how the election goes — could place democracy itself at risk in the Andean country.

Unlike with Morales’s counterparts in Latin America’s three consolidated autocracies — Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua — his past elections have been democratic and his governance style autocratic but not authoritarian. Members of Bolivia’s long-suppressed indigenous majority felt vindicated by the election of an Aymara president, and many analysts now see Morales’s 13 years in office as successful on economic merits, with consistent growth (real GDP per capita has almost doubled) alongside fairly ambitious socialist redistributive efforts.

Although Bolivia remains the poorest country in South America, poverty has fallen from 60 percent to 34 percent on Morales’s watch. Importantly, he has avoided the sort of disastrous economic mismanagement that has wreaked havoc in Venezuela. He has also generally avoided the ostentatious thuggery of that country’s leader, relying instead on his control of the courts and a slow tightening of democratic space to sideline rivals and consolidate power without attracting undue attention from abroad. For some left-leaning commentators around the world, Morales remains an icon and proof that socialism isn’t incompatible with prosperity.

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Read the full article in The Washington Post