Tomorrow marks Bolivia's elections, the first time Bolivia has elected prefectos (the heads of the provinces) in addition to the national congress and president. The presidential election itself pits two diametrically opposed candidates against each other: Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga of the right-leaning Podemos (Democratic and Social Power) party, and Evo Morales of the MAS (Movement toward Socialism). There could hardly be a bigger contrast between Quiroga, who is Harvard-educated, has an American wife and was vice-president for the conservative president and ex-military leader Hugo Bánzer, and Morales, an indigenous anti-U.S. leader who advocates liberalization of coca growing and is backed by Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.
This is a tough election for me in terms of who to sympathize with. Quiroga and Morales are clearly the two leading candidates, and one of them will be chosen president by the new congress, since neither will take 50% of the vote. This means the results of the congressional elections are also important. Despite my sympathies with the Left and the alienation of the indigenous population, I am going to prove myself to be one of the right-leaning social democrats and endorse Tuto Quiroga, who I believe has the expertise necessary to lead Bolivia to a more cohesive development strategy and constitutional reform with the constituent assembly in 2006. I am unimpressed by Morales' rhetoric, his refusal to debate other candidates and the lack of clarity in the MAS platform.
In Chile, as was expected, the Concertación candidate Michelle Bachelet was unable to reach 50% of the vote and the election will go to a runoff between Bachelet and the moderate-right wealthy businessman Sebastián Piñera. This election is not as divisive, and it is easy for me to come out for Michelle Bachelet, although I am unhappy that Bachelet and the coalition have decided to press electoral reform at this moment, when it seems like little more than a means to divide the opposition Alianza. The Bachelet slogan is "más" ... more of the Concertación, which has governed Chile for 16 years. But under Chile's two-bloc system, the Left remains the best choice.
Later, comments on Canada's prime ministerial debate, and more...