The opposition wants to safeguard the system's independence
Leer en Español: Bolivia: voto nulo alcanzo el 65% en elección judicial
On December 3rd, the elections of judicial authorities were carried out by means of obligatory popular vote; the session lasted eight hours and it went by without any abnormalities. About 4.5 million Bolivian citizens, of the 6 million eligible to vote, participated and the election was supervised by four international verification missions UNIORE, OAS, UNASUR and AWEB.
The result of the vote was surprising since the total of invalid and blank votes were more than 65%. The data of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal shows that approximately 53.75% of the votes were invalid, 33.3% were valid and 12.9% were blank. This shows that the strategy of the Bolivian opposition had positive effects, since the null votes were used as protest mechanism regarding what they consider to be manipulation of the judicial system.
After the results, President Morales declared that these do not represent a political defeat, "These are elections in the legal part for a good administration of Bolivian justice, they are not elections of political authorities".
Former President Carlos Mesa expressed in his Twitter account, "President, it is a message about the drift of our democracy and the discredit of our justice. It is imposed the respect of the popular sovereignty, expressed again with forcefulness". With these words, the opposition celebrated the result of the election in cities such as Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.
How do the elections work?
The purpose of the elections is to select the 28 representatives, as well as the substitutes, of the judicial bodies of the nation for a period of 6 years. Five representatives of the Council of the Magistracy (CM), 7 representatives to the Agro-Environmental Court (TA), 9 representatives to the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), and 7 representatives to the Plurinational Constitutional Court (TCP) are elected. Candidates are presented in separate lists for each judicial body and they must not be affiliated with any political party.
Almost 600 candidates were presented to the elections this year, of which 96 were shortlisted by the Parliament, which is controlled by a pro government majority. The pre-selection process was supported by the Executive Committee of the Bolivian University, who carried out an evolution of the merits of the applicants.
The electoral process was initially scheduled for October 22nd, but it had to be rescheduled for December 3rd, because, initially, within the total number of registered candidates, the number of women and indigenous people was insufficient to comply with the legal requirements. This preselection system has been criticized by various sectors because they believe that the regulation does not guarantee the independence of the justice system.
A unique election
This type of election is unique in Latin America and the Caribbean, or "Sui Géneris", as mentioned by representatives of UNASUR and the OAS. "In that sense it is unique, so it is very important to analyze it and study it thoroughly", Said Guillaume Long, the head of the OAS mission.
The Bolivian government has opted with this election to democratize its judicial system and eliminate some of the problems it possesses. At the same time, it seeks to avoid the existing corruption.
This is the second time this election is held. In 2011, the system was created, and, on that occasion, the results were similar. No candidate managed to overcome 10% of the total votes; most ballots were invalid or blank, just like in this instance.
Although, in democratic terms, an election by popular vote may imply a higher level of participation and direct representation, the modality in which candidates are preselected may involve risks. This is because it is the Parliament that makes the primary election over who can stand for election and this collegiate body is made up mostly of the Movement to Socialism (MAS), the party of President Evo Morales. This implies that there is a high probability that the political biases of the Parliament will be reflected in the candidates.
In practice, a measure that seeks for the democratization of the judicial system, may end up limiting the independence between powers, a fundamental characteristic to a democracy. However, this separation does not seem to be the main concern of President Morales since he mentioned that "the independence of powers, for me, is an American doctrine” meaning that it is a strategy to prevent the people from accessing the political power.
Latin American Post | Diana Cárdenas
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto