The Supreme Electoral Tribune (TSE) has approved the regulations for the October elections where the Judicial Power and the Constitutional Tribune will elect its members. Aside of being an important event, this is the first time we will be able to choose the heads of our Judicial System. However, there are some fundamentals that need to be understood before going to the polls.
Antonio Gómez Mallea, published an article in Los Tiempos on July 8, 2011, I will try to translate most of it, as it is a very well done, explanatory document:
The government presented this new regulation as something innovative, democratic and important. You, dear readers, can make your own opinion.
Article 1 d, allows, rather, forces those willing to run for office: to identify themselves as indigenous, without having the opportunity to state they are mestizo, if that were the case. Author questions this, and wonders if this is a racist discrimination. The electoral process is creating an ethnic category above other citizens who are not indigenous.
Article 2 d, is similar in nature as the above one, it asks for “experience in a position of authority for an “originary”/indigenous/campesino organization. In other words, for those who had leadership experience under an ayllu (highlanders – quechua, aimara origin) or community.
Monopoly of the information: TSE will decide how, when and the format for the electoral propaganda: Article 8, II and III. The TSE will define the “form and tools to be used according to their communicational strategy” and also “will give to the contracted companies… a unique format for making the contents of the communicational products.” Gómez questions: Could there be a unique format for a radio, press article or television interview?
Monopoly and commercial dictatorship: Article 9, establish that only the TSE could hire television propaganda since it is “the only authorized body to sign contracts with the media, for releasing personal data, merits of the candidates.”
It also breaks the commercial practice that National Electoral Court had before; now the TSE disregards the tariffs that each media group had. A “formula” is explained as to how much the TSE is willing to pay for a private media service.
From now on, the TSE will pay amounts the “can not be superior to the tariffs’ average of the ones already paid as commercial advertising, during the previous semester of the electoral act”.
In other words, the TSE will pay for political propaganda… but with commercial tariffs that media had previously negotiated with other clients: the monopoly benefitting from the open market, who would’t like this advantage!
Failure to comply with this will be penalized or an arrest will be conducted on those media companies (Art. 13 and 14).
Mute Candidates: All candidates for office are forbidden to offer more information about themselves, or request the audience to vote for them, transgressors will cease to remain as candidates (Art. 15 to 18).
Arts. 19 to 22 expressly forbid any media to invite a few or one candidate; the media must invite all candidates for a given position.
Complying the above mentioned articles, will give the media the opportunity to interview the candidates… but without generating opinion nor favoring or going against a given candidate (Arts. 23 to 26); the media will not release the results of pre-electoral surveys on vote preferences. Media could be set aside of this and the next two future electoral processes.
What comforts us, ends Gómez, is that the media will be allowed to release the survey results after the vote takes place… at 20:00 of the Election Day, one it is well over (Arts 31 to 33). Of course, the TSE will monitor that no one crosses the line (Arts. 27 to 30).
Gómez concludes his article saying that we have reached the electoral condition that totalitarian regimes had: “It is heard and vote, but can not inform nor make an opinion.”
UPDATE: This cartoon is from El Dia, July 9, 2011. It shows a very high chair depicting the Judicial System, the height of the chair reads “minimum Academic Level” and several “small” candidates trying to climb in. This represents the views of international overseers that came to Bolivia to watch this election process, let alone public’s perception.