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Failed presidencies and social protest in the context of Bolivian politics: Empirical evidence
Unformatted Document Text:  Percentage of participation in Latin American countries Source: Democracy Audit: Bolivia 2006 Report By 2002, the level of organization in the new kind of civil society was impressive. In the city of El Alto, for example, there is a vertically-structured body of neighborhood associations with the power to stop the city and its sister city of La Paz in a matter of weeks. The protests forcing Sanchez de Lozada out of power practically stopped all productive activity in the city and its surroundings. That meant, no products were exported and no supplies came in and out of the city. In a matter of weeks, these organizations managed to impose strikes around the country. The protests which forced Mesa out of power were even more impressive, stopping the country within a few days. As a result of this institutionalization, protests are there to engage the state. However, in order to protest, there has to be a motive. In the Bolivian case, the lack of confidence on the system provides this motive. One source for this is the lack of legitimacy the president-elect evoked in the eyes of the electorate. One reason is the already mentioned constitutional provision ―the congressional vote― where both houses of Congress have the task of electing the new President in the second round of elections. The results, up to the general elections of 2005, have never been seen as satisfactory to the public (Mansilla, 2005). As a product of the congressional vote, all too often, not the first winner, but the second or even the third place candidates were elected presidents. In 1982, the election of Siles Suazo was more or less a way to avoid yet another crisis. In 1989, the third place winner, Jaime Paz Zamora, was 17

Authors: Buitrago, Miguel.
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Percentage of participation in Latin American countries
Source: Democracy Audit: Bolivia 2006 Report
By 2002, the level of organization in the new kind of civil society was impressive. In the city
of El Alto, for example, there is a vertically-structured body of neighborhood associations
with the power to stop the city and its sister city of La Paz in a matter of weeks. The protests
forcing Sanchez de Lozada out of power practically stopped all productive activity in the city
and its surroundings. That meant, no products were exported and no supplies came in and out
of the city. In a matter of weeks, these organizations managed to impose strikes around the
country. The protests which forced Mesa out of power were even more impressive, stopping
the country within a few days.
As a result of this institutionalization, protests are there to engage the state. However, in order
to protest, there has to be a motive. In the Bolivian case, the lack of confidence on the system
provides this motive. One source for this is the lack of legitimacy the president-elect evoked
in the eyes of the electorate. One reason is the already mentioned constitutional provision
―the congressional vote― where both houses of Congress have the task of electing the new
President in the second round of elections. The results, up to the general elections of 2005,
have never been seen as satisfactory to the public (Mansilla, 2005). As a product of the
congressional vote, all too often, not the first winner, but the second or even the third place
candidates were elected presidents. In 1982, the election of Siles Suazo was more or less a
way to avoid yet another crisis. In 1989, the third place winner, Jaime Paz Zamora, was
17


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