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Bolivia - Government

The name of the State is Bolivia, in honor of the Libertador Simón Bolivar. Through Supreme Decree Nº 0048, of March 18th 2009, complying with what was established by Constitution, it was decided that in all public and private events, diplomatic relations as well as official correspondence at a national and international level the denomination Plurinational State of Bolivia should be used.

The Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party advocated amending the Constitution to provide for a second round if no presidential candidate wins 50 percent plus one vote in the first round (as opposed to sending the vote to Congress, which is what normally happened). The official MAS position was initially that the president should serve a five-year term with no possibility of re-election. Subsequently MAS proposed that a president may serve an indefinite number of terms, arguing that the "people" via elections, not established term limits, should decide the number of mandates a president may enjoy. The opposition wanted to retain the current system in which a president cannot serve consecutive terms. The MAS wanted President Morales to enjoy multiple terms in office, while the opposition feared that Morales will use this new privilege to consolidate power and gradually eliminate existing democratic institutions.

According to the 1994 constitution, rewriting the Constitution required a two-thirds legislative majority. Morales was reluctant to cede power to what he called an ´oligarchy´ in Santa Cruz. He wanted to devolve power to radical social movements that made up much of his political base. In December 2007 rump of the Constituent Assembly (164 of its 255 members, mostly supporters of Morales) rubber-stamped 411 clauses of the a charter. But the opposition boycotted the session; it claims the document is illegal, since it was not approved by the required two-thirds majority of the Assembly. Opposition delegates were blocked from voting by demonstrators and the armed forces. On December 14, 2007, Morales presented the constitutional text to the National Congress to request a referendum for its approval in 2008. The opposition-controlled Senate prevented the referendum legislation from moving forward.

Social groups affiliated with the ruling Movement Toward Socialism party pressured the legislative branch to accede to the vote on the proposed constitution. To put pressure on the politicians in Congress, some 100,000 citizens marched from Oruro to La Paz, demanding that a referendum be held on the constitution. President Evo Morales joined the march. On October 21, 2008, with a crowd of at least 50,000 pro-government supporters surrounding the National Congress, the government and congressional opposition agreed on final draft text for the new constitution. President Evo Morales agreed to seek only one more five-year term, a key concession that all but ended a standoff in Congress over the new constitution. On January 25th 2009, the new Constitution was approved by referendum.

The European Union Electoral Observation Mission (EU EOM) published on January 27 its Preliminary Statement regarding the January 25 constitutional referendum. Although the report says the referendum was credibly completed and the "electorate could in general freely exercise their right to vote," it also makes several criticisms: the lack of a functioning judicial branch; a high level of propaganda in state-owned media; problems with the voter rolls; government pressure on public employees to vote for the constitution; bias by the National Electoral Court (CNE); lack of secret voting in some districts; and the disenfranchisement of an estimated two million Bolivians.

In November 2015 Congress approved a referendum to take place on Feb. 21, 2016, a yes or no choice as to whether the two-term limit should be changed. Bolivian President Evo Morales' plan to change the constitution to allow him to stay in power until 2025 by running for another re-election at the end of his current term divided the country, although polls showed he may have enough support to win.

The Plurinational State of Bolivia is governed by the Political Constitution of the State, in force since February 7th 2009 [replacing Bolivia’s 1967 constitution], which constitutes Bolivia as a Social Unitary State of Plurinational Communitarian Law, free, independent, sovereign, democratic, intercultural, decentralized and with autonomies. Bolivia is founded on the plurality and political, economical, judicial, cultural and linguistic pluralism within the integration process of the country.

The Bolivian State is divided in four Branches:

  1. Executive Branch;
  2. Legislative Branch;
  3. Judicial Branch and the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal;
  4. Electoral Branch.

The Executive Branch is comprised of the President, as well as the Vice-President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia and the Ministers of the State. The executive consists of the president, vice president, and the ministers of state. The president and vice president are selected through national elections. The ministers of state are appointed. The 2009 constitution strengthened the executive branch and centralized political and economic decision-making. Although Evo's main goal through much of the constitution-drafting process was indefinite reelection for the president, in the end he seems to have had to compromise on this major point. The constitution approved by the Constituent Assembly allows a president only two five-year terms.

The Legislative Branch is represented by Plurinational Legislative Assembly, composed of two chambers, the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Senators and it the only Branch with the capacity approve and sanction laws that govern the whole country. The Chamber of Deputies has 130 members, with 70 members selected by direct vote, 53 by party list, and seven in special indigenous areas. The Chamber of Senators has 36 members, with 4 from each of the 9 departments.

The judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, an independent Constitutional Tribunal, a Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and departmental and lower courts. The 2009 constitution reformed the procedure for selecting judicial officials for the Supreme Court, Constitutional Tribunal, and Supreme Electoral Tribunal to make these officials subject to election by national vote. To stand for election, candidates first must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote of all Plurinational Assembly members present. Judges are elected to 6-year terms.

The Judicial Branch and Plurnational Constitutional Tribunal is composed of four jurisdictions:

  1. Ordinary Jurisdiction, which exercises for the Supreme Justice Tribunal, the Departamental Justice Tribunals, the Sentence Tribunals and judges;
  2. Agro-Environmental Jurisdiction, which exercises for the Agro-Environmental Judges and Tribunal;
  3. Indigenous Peasants Jurisdiction, which exercises for its own authorities; and
  4. Specialized Jurisdictions, regulated by law ( the process of implementation will start in the new Legislative Assembly).

The members of the Supreme Justice Tribunal and the Constitutional Tribunal were elected by the vote of the people on October 16th 2011. Bolivia also has a Board of Magistrates and a Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal, responsible for ensuring the supremacy of the Constitution, exercise control of constitutionality, and err on the respect for and observance of the constitutional rights and guarantees.

The Electoral Branch is responsible for organizing, administrating and execute the and proclaim their results. Its composed of: The Supreme Electoral Tribunal, Departamental Electoral Tribunals, Electoral Courts, Suffrage Juries and Electoral Notaries.

Bolivia is frequently cited as one of the most successful cases of democratic decentralisation in Latin America. In 1994, the Popular Participation Law decentralised power to the local level, allowing for the popular election of mayors, dividing the country into municipalities, and crafting a system of automatic fiscal transfers to the new municipalities. Bolivia is divided into 314 municipal governments. These governments in Bolivia are headed by popularly-elected mayors (presidente municipal) and a municipal council (cabildo). Local elections occur nationwide every five years.

Bolivian local governments have been entrusted with building local health and education facilities, as well as maintenance of this infrastructure. In Bolivia, 20% of nationwide tax collections are distributed among municipalities on a per capita basis. While these municipalities may levy taxes on motor vehicles, urban property, and large agricultural properties, fiscal transfers provide the bulk of the operating budget for these units.

The 2009 constitution provided new powers and responsibilities at the departmental, municipal, and regional areas, as well as in newly-created indigenous autonomous areas. Bolivia is organized into departments, provinces, municipalities and indigenous peasant territories. The nine Departments at make the Plurinational State of Bolivia are:

  1. Beni;
  2. Chuquisaca;
  3. Cochabamba;
  4. La Paz;
  5. Oruro;
  6. Pando;
  7. Potosí;
  8. Santa Cruz;
  9. Tarija.
The departmental autonomous government is constituted by a Departmental Assembly, with deliberative, legislative and departmental oversight powers in the areas of competence and an executive body.

Regional autonomy is recognized, consisting of several municipalities or provinces with no geographical continuity and without transcending departmental boundaries, that share culture, language, history, economy and ecosystems in each department, it will be established as a space for planning and management.

The municipal autonomous government consists of a Municipal Council with municipal deliberative, legislative and auditing powers in the areas of competence, and an executive body, chaired by the Mayor. According to the Federation of Municipal Associations of Bolivia (FAM), the country is divided into 337 municipalities, distributed as follows: 85 in La Paz, 56 Santa Cruz, 47 in Cochabamba, 40 in Potosi, 35 in Oruro, 29 in Chuquisaca, 19 in Beni, 15 in Pando and 11 in Tarija.

The indigenous peasant autonomy consists of self-government as an exercise of self-determination of nations andpeasant indigenous peoples, whose population share territory, culture, history, languages, and organization or legal, political, social and economic characteristics.

Official languages of the State are: spanish or castillian, aymara, araona, baure, bésiro, canichana, cavineño, cayubaba, chácobo, chimán, ese ejja, guaraní, guarasu'we, guarayu, itonama, leco, machajuyai-kallawaya, machineri, maropa, mojeño-trinitario, mojeño-ignaciano, moré, mosetén, movima, pacawara, puquina, quechua, sirionó, tacana, tapiete, toromona, uru-chipaya, weenhayek, yaminawa, yuki, yuracaré y zamuco.





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