Without a second round of voting, click no candidate will reach the desired 50% + 1 outcome. However, sovaldi sale many seem to think that MAS will reach a record high for popular vote. Even though they have not come close to crossing into the 40s% in any of the polls, I will go out on a limb and say that MAS will cross that line on Sunday with a figure close to 41-42% The reason I think that this is entirely possible is due to the large numbers of poll responders who say that their choice is “secret”. In my estimation, a large number of these people will vote for MAS, but are afraid to reveal out of fear of what others might think. There is a strong perception that those supporting this party are only the working poor, taxi drivers, bus drivers, campesinos, with very few middle class supporters. God forbid if someone who lives in the Zona Norte of Cochabamba and attends one of the prized private schools would admit to supporting Morales. However, there are more than people will be lead to believe.

A second prediction, MAS will place 2nd in Santa Cruz.

The Final Hours

So what’s been up this past several days? For starters, I have been sick in bed for a good part of the week.

Official campaigning came to a close at midnight on Thursday. The top four Presidential campaigns had their final events during the week. Samuel Doria Medina (UN) found a unique place to hold his event, at the foot of the Cristo de la Concordia statue which overlooks Cochabamba. The location made it difficult for any curious individual to stop by. Accessible at night by a long winding road up the mountain San Pedro. The group Octavia performed.

Jorge Quiroga’s PODEMOS party put on the most public affair, right in the middle of the Plaza Colon. Of the four campaign closing festivities, it was the only one I personally attended, out of curiosity. It seems as if many had the same idea, as the flag bearers and those dressed in red were concentrated near the front. Many many attendees were teenagers who seemed to be out for the chequeo ( a term used here by teenagers who want to “check out” who else is around ).

MAS’ closing festivities was held in the Stadium Felix Capriles. At the peak of attendance, there was approximately 50,000 from the entire Department. A heavy storm scattered many of the attendees before the keynote address. Argentine singer Piero, Bolivian group Tupay and football star Julio Cesar Baldivieso were some of the main attractions.

Finally, MNR held its close of campaign in a private ceremony in their party headquarters.

More later..

Inside Information?

Last Sunday, Samuel Doria Medina insinuated that new polls would come out this week, which conveniently would shake up the order of finish. Doria Medina said that he thinks that one of the television channels (he didn’t name which one) will release a poll mid-week, which would show Quiroga in first place and that Doria Medina would drop to fourth, with the MNR candidate Michiaki Nagatani in third place. He indicated that in the past, polls have been maninpulated to acheive a desired result. We’ll see…

Symbolic External Vote

A new initiative called Vive Tu Voto will allow Bolivians living in the Washington DC area and in cyberspace to emit their symbolic, and non-binding vote for the December 18th elections. A couple of Bolivian restaurants will host these voting exercises. This has been an issue that strikes a chord with many Bolivian ex-patriates in the US, Europe, Argentina and Brazil.

From the website:

Background info – More than 1 million Bolivians have left the country in search of better professional development opportunities, employment and an improvement of living conditions. As a result, they have left their families, their communities and their constitutional rights.

It is important that the rights of Bolivian citizens are respected inside or outside of the country as indicated by Article 145 of the Electoral Law, which was replaced by the Electoral Code, Law 1984 of June 25, 1999 whose Title III Electors, First Paragraph, Registry, Article 97, which says: “The Vote of Residents Abroad. Bolivian Citizens, residents abroad can vote to elect President and Vice President in the General Elections. This law expresses and regulates that right.”

Even if half of the number of potential voters abroad exercised that right, they would undoubtedly affect the outcome of next weekend’s vote. Residents in Argentina have also pushed for this right. For now, all they can do is go through the motions.

Participating vs. Observing

Having been in the country a little over a week, troche I have yet to make contact with many relatives and other friends. When I arrive home at night, shop it is way past the acceptable 10 pm call cut-off time. When I do manage to briefly speak with them, check they ask me what I have been doing. My answer has been that I have been “ayudando” with a Congressional campaign of a family friend. I stress that I am involved to learn and that it has been an eye-opening experience.

However, it is difficult to see where the line is drawn between observing and actually participating. What constitutes participating? Do I have to be a registered member of the citizen’s group/political party? If I help hand out campaign posters/stickers/literature, does that mean that I am officially a member of the campaign? Does the fact that I am riding around a car adorned with the citizen’s group/party’s name and colors mean that I am *part* of the campaign?

Around the strategy table, which is all inclusive including some teenage volunteers and others who have little to do with strategy, I have been asked by the candidate to add my input on simple things such as the layout of a new brochure. However, last night after a television debate, a few of us were sitting around giving reaction and analysis of some of the tense moments during the event, I spoke up and added my two cents, which gained some nodding heads in agreement. Yet, I have been very careful to remain in my place during the past week.

Some of the most enlightening moments during the past week have been my conversations with the 10 or so people affiliated with the campaign. I have been telling my educational background, personal experiences and prove that I am somewhat knowledgeable about Bolivian current events. So far, I have been accepted into the group (at least I think), which has been working for nearly two months before I had arrived.

It has been something that I have been struggling against, to determine whether I have retained my early observation mode or whether it was just a matter of time that I would be participating more and more. I must admit that at times the adrenaline rush is overwhelming, such as the preparation for and during the televised debate (more on that later). Campaign strategy can also be exciting, when you pick up little things along the way, about the way many journalists work in Bolivia.

Where is the line between participating and observing? Any ideas? I think this is unchartered territory for someone. That is why it has also been a struggle to know how much to reveal, because there hasn’t been a precedent with an experience like this.

On the Clock

Following “Bolivian time” on the campaign trail would seem to be a trainwreck waiting to happen. However, decease somehow, try everything turns out alright. Each day, on a rotating basis, one staff member is assigned to accompany the candidate and to be in charge of that day’s events. These responsbilities include knowing where the campaign event will be held, who is the contact person and to make sure that the group follows the schedule. In one day, there could be up to 10 events, which includes meetings with different organizations, walking the neighborhoods, radio and television interviews and staff meetings.

With so many places to visit with so little time, events are often bumped or cancelled altogether. On the weekly calendar on the wall, each event is assigned a specific time when the candidate needs to be at the location. I have been noticing that we have never arrived at the time indicated on the wall calendar. But there is almost a sixth sense to know when we must absolutely leave to arrive at an acceptable time.

There are staff members who are responsible for securing media interviews. The political advisors often recommend or decline some of the interview requests because of the common-knowledge that a particular journalist is biased or affiliated with another political party and is out for blood. Other staff members are also in charge of looking for endorsements from various organizations. As a result, they always lobby that their event is more important and many events get double-booked. In the end, the candidate has the final call as to which one gets bumped.

For example, today the candidate was invited as the guest of honor at a graduation in a urban neighborhood, which was scheduled months before the candidate even announced intention to run for office. At the event, it was not an explicit campaign stop, but there was time to pass out literature and the other staff members had the party logo and colors. The graduation was slated to start at 1 pm and we did not arrive until 3 pm. Immediately following that event, which ended at 5 pm, we rushed off to another graduation, which was supposed to start at 4 pm.

Fortunately television interviews are almost always taped in advanced and showed at a later airing. Arriving late to those appointments are not the end of the world.

Often the other car (we only have two different cars at our disposition) arrives ahead and assures the contact person that the candidate is on the way. The little white lie of “ya estamos llegando” (we are almost there) is used anywhere from the time that we are just leaving or to a time that we are on the road still a ways away. Cell phones are the lifeblood of a campaign. Communication between all the different staff members coordinating among themselves, with the candidate, with headquarters is easily facilitated by these commonly found gadgets. The only problem is when the cars travel to rural areas up the mountainside where cell phone signal is spotty at best. The night that I met the Presidential candidate, he was operating with two different cell phones, one in each pocket (both rang at the same time non-stop).

When the candidate finally arrives to a scheduled event, those waiting never seem to be disappointed for having had to wait. However, as a result, the candidate feels a bit guilty for not staying on schedule and is determined to give them their money’s worth (a figure of speech, there is no money exchanged). Then, the rest of the schedule is pushed back as a result.

In the end, getting in and out of cars, hearing more or less the same speech, not having time to stop for lunch and/or dinner, and all the travel in cramped vehicles leave me thoroughly exhausted at the end of the day.

Elections at Close Range

A funny thing happened along the road to the December 18 elections. On my part, salve there was a bit of excitement to be around the hoopla and intensity of one of the most historic elections in Bolivian history. Hearing the word on the street and just talking politics would have been satisfying enough. However, help things took an unexpected turn earlier this week. A family friend decided to run for deputy (uninominal) in a zone on the outskirts of Cochabamba. He invited me to come along during the campaign trail.

Little did I know that I would have full access to the inner workings of a modest, yet intense campaign. For the past two days, I have accompanied the team during campaign stops in poor urbanizaciones and in rural villages high up in the mountains over the course of 12 hour days.

In between visits, we would return to campaign headquarters to discuss strategy and the latest news. I have been fortunate to have a seat at that table, but have yet to add my two cents. Television sets are set up in one of the rooms to document the number of times campaign ads run and any mention of the candidate on the news.

At times, the experiences seem so surreal. During two of the stops on Tuesday, entire speeches were given in quechua, as many of the voters in that area are rural farmers whose first tongue is the native language. The other day, we entered Cochabamba because the candidate still must campaign for the Prefect and Presidential candidate during his stops. I managed to meet the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates briefly as both were in town for campaign stops. We went to pick up the Presidential candidate in order to take him to a scheduled media interview that night.

I have been very careful to only support the congressional race, as I am still unsure of who I might support for President. I do not sport any colors of the political party and try to remain in the background as much as possible. However, I must admit that seeing campaigning at such a close range is an experience that few get to have.

Now the tricky part, I do not know how much I should reveal, since I value the confidence and access given to me. It would be foolish to run off to the computer and report on everything that I saw and heard. I must say that I am a little less cynical about politics after the two short days on the campaign. Perhaps after all of this done, I can write in fuller detail about my experiences and use more specifics. As soon as I am finished writing this post, I will take the trufi for the 15 km ride to the campaign headquarters.

Cross Voting

There is this funny little phenomenon taking place all across Bolivia. In 7 of the 9 Departments, sales the winner of the Presidential elections are all but decided. Either the PODEMOS or MAS candidate are considered favorites to wrap up the vote on a national level. However, sales Prefect elections, which are a first in the country, are not following this trend. Normally it might expected that a vote for a particular party would equal a similar vote for the Prefect of the same party.

Two particular cases jump out. In Cochabamba, Evo Morales is sure to win very handedly, but his Prefect candidate Jorge Alvarado (22%) trails AUN (ex-NFR and ex-Cochabamba mayor) Manfred Reyes Villa (53%). In La Paz, Morales also has gained the majority of votes according to the polls, but the PODEMOS candidate Jose Luis Paredes is leading with 53% the MAS Prefect candidate, Hugo Morales.

Other Prefect candidates that are running away with the race:

– Leopoldo Fernández (PODEMOS) – 68%
Santa Cruz – Rubén Costas – Autonomía Por Bolivia (APB) – 50%
Tarija – Mario Cossío – Camino al Cambio (ERCC) – 53%

Cossío leads former Bolivian President Jaime Paz Zamora, in what might signal the end of a controversial political career.

Election Everywhere

Take it all in. No, it is not the overpolluted air from the rusty old micros, but the smell of a fast-approaching election. Everywhere you go, anyone you talk to, all they want to talk about are the elections. During my stopover in Santa Cruz yesterday morning, the airport television sets ran non-stop election ads. I have not watched much television thus far, but I have seen Samuel Doria Medina’s ad with the huge Bolivian flags waving in the background several times now. There is an identical one featuring one of the founders of the Nacion Camba, Carlos Dabdoub kissing the Bolivian flag running in Santa Cruz, but I have yet to see it in Cochabamba.

There are random cars driving around the city with flags waving. Window decals featuring Tuto Quiroga’s PODEMOS can be seen on Volkswagon bugs around town. Mini-buses feature posters indicating their support for Evo Morales and MAS.

In various spots around the city, you can see teenagers wearing the colors of one of the parties handing out flyers. Not old enough to vote, one wonders what persuaded them to get involved with campaign. Could it be youthful idealism? Or maybe a couple of pesos in their pocket?

That brings me to the issue concerning why anyone gets involved with campaigning in the first place. PODEMOS is well-known for its embrace of transfugas, or individuals who were once part of the other traditional parties. However, it is becomding more clear that even MAS will operate as a traditional party. There are people getting involved with their campaign hoping to score a government job if MAS comes out victorious.

However, who can blame individuals seeing government jobs as their way out of such economic instability? The relatively small middle class in Bolivia was created by this dependency on a political system that encourages and manipulates through the patronage system. It seemingly seems worse off here than in times before, as there is an uncertainty of what might happen if either Tuto or Evo becomes President. Part of it may arise from scare tactics by pegging the other as the most radical of the right and left, respectively, than what is probably an a bit of an over-reaction.