Friday, April 10, 2009

Bolivian Frolics

Evo Morales is on hunger strike.

To my UK readers that may not mean very much, since the British press doesn't seem to have noticed that he exists, but in fact it is a remarkable piece of news. He is the President of Bolivia, and his election was more or less on democratic lines. However, he is extremely interested in winning the next elections in December by any means available, ostensibly because only he can protect the 'indigenous' population (who are a majority and have a vote like everyone else). It might have more to do with the love of power that these people invariably have, and the fact that he is the head of the South American coca growers association (so I am informed).

In any case, he claims to be fasting until Parliament passes the bill that will allow elections to be held in December. Why does the incumbent president want elections, while the opposition try to stop him holding them? Go on, guess. The electoral census is, shall we say, inaccurate, a circumstance recognised by everyone, including Morales' party when he thought it was useful to say so. The opposition want reform of the census before elections, because otherwise they cannot hope to win, and Morales has suddenly decided that democracy in Bolivia requires elections without reform of any sort. (There is a new Constitution; it looks depressingly familiar.)

A prediction: the election bill will be passed, without the reform of the census. A further wild guess: many thousands of peasants, Indians, socialists and party workers will be persuaded to join him on hunger strike, and will risk their health and lose income in support of him, while Morales himself will pose on a mattress for the cameras before going off to dinner.

Still, he's a lot more fun than Gordon Brown, and he believes in his own right to govern, which we used to think was the absolute minimum requirement for a leader.

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