The city of El Alto, Bolivia, should be a stronghold for President Evo Morales and his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party. Perched on the Andean Plateau above its sister-city La Paz, the sprawling, fast-growing El Alto is considerably poorer and more indigenous than the capital. Almost three-quarters of its almost 1 million inhabitants are, like Morales, ethnically Aymara, and in the past voters have supported the president and other MAS candidates by large margins. On March 29, however, things took a turn in regional elections as the party lost dramatically in both the El Alto mayoral and the La Paz department gubernatorial races. The defeats headlined a broader wave of opposition victories in regional elections across Bolivia.
While the losses may appear simply to be a blow to Morales—now entering his 10th year in office, the longest-serving president in Latin America—they are in fact more complicated. They reflect both a protest vote against recent corruption scandals within the MAS and a growing disconnect between voters’ support for Morales and their opinion of the rest of the party.