There is hope yet for the left. In Bolivia, the country’s presidential election has resulted in another socialist victory, this time for candidate Luis Arce. With over 50 percent of votes going to Arce in the first round of voting, he has ensured the election does not go into a runoff. Arce’s election comes a year after the coup that ousted his party’s populist predecessor, Evo Morales.
Arce’s primary opponent, and ally of current unelected coup-president Jeanine Anez, Luis Camacho won only around 14 percent of the vote. Anez’s party has already conceded the election to Arce and the MAS Party (Movement for Socialism Party). The election results are far too overwhelming to dispute. It is poetic justice to see, less than a year after Morales’ ousting, that his party has thumped the right-wing coup regime so thoroughly.
For context, we must wind our clocks back a year. In October of 2019, Evo Morales ran for a fourth term as president in Bolivia. Considered controversial, some perceived it as an authoritarian power grab. Morales, however, by every metric, scored another socialist victory. Despite the win, news spread of “irregularities” in the polls, which sparked a series of protests from right-wing Bolivians.
Morales’ opposition claimed fraud and prompted the Bolivian Military to force Morales out. Under threat of force by the military, Morales resigned and fled the country. The right-wing penalty for placing people before corporate profits. Morales had cut Bolivia’s poverty rate by 20 percent.
The presidency was then handed by the opposition to Senator Jeanine Anez. Nearly a year later, it was revealed in the Intercept that the data used to justify allegations of fraud were wildly inaccurate.
Anez, a right-wing politician, has a precarious political history in Bolivia. She is well known as a Christian fundamentalist, having hostile opinions towards Bolivia’s indigenous population. She has been on record calling the indigenous (who are the majority of the population) “savage” and their culture “satanic.” One of her first acts as president was to place a bible back into the presidential palace and remove several indigenous symbols.
Immediately after the coup, Anez unleashed terror campaigns against indigenous supporters of Morales. Anez, with the aid of the military, police, and right-wing parties, attempted to fulfill expropriation of indigenous lands and remove their protections from the constitution. Unfortunately for Anez, terror tactics prove ineffective when the targeted group is most of the population.
Even among state oppression, Morales and MAS remained wildly popular. Anez hoped to use this year’s snap election to consolidate the coup regime. Instead, the right-wing has crumbled. Their defeat is so resounding that Anez and her supporters backed down almost immediately. Now, from exile in Argentina, Morales cheers the election of his trusted ally Arce. Even with this victory, the question remains; what next?
While Luis Arce and MAS won decisively, there is still the question of the military. MAS still has enemies in the military and police establishments. Morales was overthrown only a year ago, and the leadership of the military is still led by the same generals who overthrew him. Arce will likely face a hostile military establishment on day one.
Going forward, it would be wise of Arce to pull a page from Nicolas Maduro’s playbook in Venezuela. Maduro, though embattled, has held onto power in Venezuela. Despite assassination attempts, mass protests, and an attempted coup, Maduro has survived, and his opposition dwindled to ineffectiveness. This is the result of the unwavering loyalty of Venezuela’s military.
Maduro, and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, made sure to purge the military leadership of disloyal generals and promote political synchronization. Chavez himself was almost overthrown in a coup in 2002, and therefore ensured the personal loyalty of his future commanders as well as promotion of his socialist ideology within the rank and file. If Arce hopes to avoid being overthrown himself, he will likely have to follow a similar path with Bolivia’s military.
Electorally, the right-wing in Bolivia have been shattered. Concern is still in the air, however. It is not impossible, albeit improbable, that the military simply rejects the results. Even more likely, the military, with help of right-wing parties, does everything possible to derail Arce’s agenda and therefore provide the context for another coup. To avoid this, Arce and MAS must think strategically and bold.
With another undeniable socialist victory, it is time to consolidate power and ensure what happened last year never happens again.
Love and solidarity to the people of Bolivia!