Barely two hours after the voting for Bolivia’s president had ended last Sunday, Movement towards Socialism (MAS) supporters began to fill Plaza Murillo, the heart of the capital of La Paz.
“Evo! De nuevo! (Evo! Again!)”, they chanted, while flying Bolivian flags, indigenous wiphala flags and the MAS colours high above their heads.
News filtered through. The indigenous leader Evo Morales had won 62 percent of the presidential vote and a second term of office, this time with an even bigger mandate for change. Manfred Reyes Villa, his closest rival, got just 28 percent of the vote.
Since taking power in 2006, Morales has delivered radical change in Bolivia, where neoliberal policies had devastated the country’s economy and marginalised the majority indigenous population.
During his campaign, Morales said voters had a simple choice – further social change in Bolivia or a return to neoliberal policies.
With a weak and discredited right, there was never any doubt that Morales would win re-election. Beyond the presidential victory, however, there was another battleground – the senate.
During the first term of the MAS government, the opposition’s majority in the senate meant up to 17 laws proposed by MAS were blocked, including the “Marcelo Quiroga law” – an anti-corruption law that would investigate misuse of state funds.
Morales’ movement also won the required majority in the senate – with MAS taking 25 of the 36 seats.
“With this two-thirds majority,” Morales told the thousands gathered in Plaza Murillo, “we are obliged to accelerate change. We have a responsibility not just to our country, but to humanity.”
A second term for Morales will see a development of social policies implemented by MAS, funded by the income from gas and oil reserves, which were nationalised in 2006.
Morales chose the city of El Alto for his final rally. It had been the scene of popular resistance in 2003 that triggered the rise of MAS to government.
In front of tens of thousands of supporters, Morales promised further investment, jobs through industrialisation, and the creation of a “new”, truly representative, Bolivia that recognises and celebrates the country’s ethnic diversity.
The re-election of Morales adds continuity to a project that most Bolivians believe has returned dignity to the country.
“Above all,” MAS deputy Gustavo Torrico told Socialist Worker over the chanting in Plaza Murillo, “people wanted equality, justice, inclusion, and solidarity.”