Bolivia’s Constitutional Referendum

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A constitutional referendum was held on 21 February 2016. The proposed constitutional amendment was to grant the President and Vice President the mandate to run for a consecutive third term under the 2009 constitution. A 51.3% majority voted down the referendum.

The 2009 constitution allows the President and Vice President stand for re-election only once, limiting the number of terms to two. The move for a referendum was sponsored by the governing party to amend the constitution in order to allow for an extended term in 2019.

In an interesting turn of events, election propaganda is prohibited under the “act of good governance” which Bolivia’s elections are conducted under. Motorized transport is regulated and it is illegal to buy or consume alcohol for 48 hours prior to the referendum to ensure voters take note of their decision. Details are unclear on how these laws are enforced.

A successful “yes” vote in the referendum would have allowed President Evo Morales and Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera to run for another term in office in 2019. Morales had been elected three times already! The first term in 2006 was not counted as it was before the two-term limit was introduced by the 2009 constitution.



A man walks by graffiti in El Alto, Bolivia. Photo: Getty images


Bolivian voters delivered a stinging defeat to President Morales after election officials announced he had lost a bid to run for a fourth term. Morales had appeared defiant and unwilling to accept defeat but due to mounting pressure and the country’s electoral officials announcing that voters in the referendum had ultimately rejected a constitutional amendment to let him run for a further term in 2019, he conceded defeat.

After the announcement, throngs of people poured into the streets in jubilation and fireworks were a common theme in their acknowledgement of the country’s democracy at work.

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