After a six month stalemate, Bolivia’s Constitutional Assembly members reached a compromise and approved a method of voting on February 14th. As a result, the Assembly’s 21 thematic commissions have finally begun considering the proposals for the content of the new constitution.
The procedural gridlock over Article 70, which defines how the individual articles and the final text of the constitution will be approved, represents much deeper differences between the central MAS government and opposition groups. This ongoing struggle encompasses the hydrocarbons and autonomy issues as well as class, race and regional divides that have become increasingly acute throughout the country.
The multi-party compromise reached by the Assembly provides a glimmer of hope for the future of this conflict-ridden process. If the central government, opposition parties and departmental governors can follow the example set by the Assembly and make mutual concessions, instead of continually blocking each other’s progress, the current political crisis may be transformed into a process of genuine political reform to benefit all Bolivians.
In spite of this step forward, the debate of specific articles for the new constitution will most likely generate further controversy and friction. It will be essential for all parties involved to continue to compromise as the Assembly only has six months before they must present the final text of the constitution to the Bolivian public. The successful creation of a new constitution is one of Bolivia’s best options for peaceful political
The Vote on Article 70
Of the 255 members in the Assembly, 247 were present for the Feb 14th vote. Of those present there were 201 Yes votes (81%), 17 No votes, 19 Abstentions, and 10 did not vote.
Support for the articles did not strictly follow party lines. The revised article received support from members of the MAS, Podemos, UN, MNR, AS and some small leftist parties. Some dissenting members of the Podemos, MNR, APB, AAI, and Camino al Cambio voted against the article.
The voting process approved with the revision of Article 70 is lengthy, complicated and still contains some gray areas.
If each article of the new constitution is approved by the commissions and the entire body of the Assembly by two-thirds, the final text of the constitution will be submitted to the Bolivian public for approval by popular referendum. However, this is unlikely given the contentious nature of many of the articles to be debated, the potential for continued obstructions, the short time limit and the general disorganization of the Assembly.
If there are articles that do not receive two-thirds approval, the debate on the article will move to a committee. This committee will attempt to reach consensus, but if that is not possible there is an option to allow the Bolivian public to chose between two versions of controversial articles in a popular referendum. It is still unclear whether this vote would take place as part of the final approval of the text by Bolivian voters or would occur in a separate referendum.
March 6: Bolivian Congress passed legislation convoking a constitutional assembly.
July 2: Elections for Assembly representatives
August 6: The Assembly convenes.
February 14: Assembly reaches a compromise on voting procedures.
April 30: Deadline for commissions to submit their proposed articles to the Assembly.
July 2: Deadline for Assembly to finish debate on the text.
August 6: Official deadline for the Assembly to present the new constitution.
Originally published by the Andean Information Network. Visit their new website at www.ain-bolivia.org