Bolivia’s Election Was A Victory For Democracy and Anti-Imperialism


Arthur Koenig, Opinions Editor

It has been a tumultuous and painful few years for supporters of the Global Left. The losses of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, and the rise of right-wing reactionaries around the globe from Bolsonaro in Brazil to Modi in India and Trump in the U.S. have been major setbacks for left-wing politics. The recent election in Bolivia has finally provided unabated good news for a movement that has suffered many defeats of late. 

Bolivian politics were turned upside down last Fall, when President Evo Morales, on the back of massive popular support largely due to his successful anti-poverty measures, decided to run for an unprecedented fourth Presidential term. While the merits of this decision are certainly questionable, Morales won rather decisively. This result was unacceptable to ruling elites, and attempts to discredit the results began almost immediately. After a weeks-long dispute about the vote count as well as mass protests and violence, Morales resigned, despite insisting that a coup had taken place against him. He was exiled from the country, and a military-backed regime took power. Senator Bernie Sanders weighed in last year, saying at a televised event: “When the military intervenes…that is called a coup.” 

This regime, headed by Jeanine Áñez, proceeded to arrest supporters of Morales, and attempt to crush dissent altogether. This coup government, with the support of the United States, England, and others, subsequently delayed the elections twice, and tried their very best to suppress the votes of supporters of Morales’ party, MAS (Movement Towards Socialism). So much for democracy.

Nevertheless, the MAS ended up competing for the vote with Luis Arce as the Presidential candidate. Arce, the economic minister under Morales is a much more reserved and technocratic figure in the party. His very appearance on the ballot was largely due to mass protest and public pressure in response to Áñez’s attempts to delay the election. What happened when election day finally came was shocking. Arce won over 52% of the vote, over 20% more than the next closest challenger, and twice the margin of Morales’ 2019 win. 

This is an incredible victory for the Latin American Left. Despite being a relatively small nation, the implications of this election are massive. The poor and indigenous populations of the country will once again be represented in government, instead of the repression they experienced under the Áñez regime. The country will also likely return to the successful anti-poverty policies that defined the Morales years. In addition, this result counters the recent rightward shift in Latin American politics, from Ecuador to Colombia to Chile, and, most notably, in Brazil. 

No one can be sure exactly how Arce will govern, but regardless, this is a massive step forward for democracy and anti-imperialism. The people of Bolivia have been fighting for the entire past year against an illegitimate government, and for their representation in a democratic process. They took to the streets en masse when elections were postponed, even when faced with military backlash. MAS’ sweeping victory proves that even with widespread repression, massive opposition forces and destabilizing efforts, the people of a country can change the course of history.