In the end, an attempt to hold on to power by calling for new elections proved fruitless. Bolivia's president reacted far too late after mass protests — and recognized the signs of the times, writes DW's Johan Ramirez.
Bolivian President Evo Morales has failed to understand the political crisis that his country is going through — which is somewhat surprising for a person who has been in power since 2006. Not only has he not understood that his image throughout these almost 14 years of government has eroded, but he has shown no ability to see the signs of the times — an error not easily excused in politics.
Morales ignored the result of the 2016 referendum, in which Bolivians said 'no' to his attempt for a fourth consecutive term. This result was the first message that the president did not understand: more than half of the country wanted a transition, and that, in democracy, is sacred. He could not read the writing on the wall, and instead of promoting a new candidacy within his own Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, with which the MAS would very likely have held on to the presidency, he found a way to run again legally.
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A series of mistakes
But demonstrations against him did not let up during the campaign. Morales was not only determined to win, but to win in the first round. The preliminary report that the Organization of American States (OAS) issued early Sunday revealed a series of serious irregularities — manipulations of the system that would have shaken the confidence of the popular vote. In such a deeply conservative country, even his own base, including indigenous people, could hardly forgive the leader for this.
After the first round that declared Morales the "winner," the opposition took to the streets to demand a recount. Again, the president was not able to hear or heed that message. A few days later their request escalated, and the opposition began to demand that the results be annulled entirely and a new election be held. Yet again, the president did not listen. Calls for Morales' resignation, meanwhile, grew louder and louder.
On Saturday, the president sent a message to the nation in which he showed once again that he was not understanding anything: He denounced "a coup d'etat," spoke of racism, and called on his supporters to mobilize and defend his government.
Though he called for dialogue, he did not include civic committees that currently lead the opposition. Not recognizing them, not recognizing their enormous power to bring people together, not recognizing their authority — which is legitimized by popular support — and the strength they now exhibit as a social movement, proved to be Morales' last political mistake.
On Sunday, Evo Morales woke the country with his call for new elections— but his announcement came at least 10 days late. At this point, those in the streets were not demanding new elections, but rather his exit from power. The crisis reached a point of no return: Evo Morales' time had expired irrevocably — and he had to resign.
Morales did not understand it until the end. And in doing so, Bolivia has just experienced a historic moment.