LA PAZ – The Bolivian Congress, controlled by the party of President Evo Morales, passed Saturday a bill for a constitutional amendment that would allow him to run for office again in the 2019 general elections.
The bill was passed at 5:00 a.m. and the debate continues on the four articles that make up the legislation, though final approval seems certain since the ruling Movement to Socialism, or MAS, party has the two-thirds of the vote in both houses needed to pass the reform.
The session began Friday at 4:20 p.m. local time, so that up to now the lawmakers have been debating for more than 18 hours.
The law, proposed to Congress by labor unions and indigenous groups that support the government, modifies Article 168 of the Bolivian constitution to allow a first term and two reelections, instead of one, as stipulated in the present document.
The proposal also includes a “transitory provision” saying that the first term, under the constitution enacted in 2009, corresponds to the 2010-2015 period, the first reelection to the 2015-2020 term, and the second five-year term between 2020-2025.
Following that logic, the first term that Morales and Garcia Linera served (2006-2010) would not count in these calculations because it occurred during a period before the nation was refounded with the enactment of the new constitution in 2009, an argument the opposition has rejected on numerous occasions.
The “final provision” of the bill establishes that the amendment will only be valid if approved by a referendum, which the ruling party plans for Feb. 21, 2016.
Morales supporters justified the law during the debate, noting the economic and social achievements of the president, whom they identified as the “undisputed leader” of the “process of change.”
They also defended the legality of the initiative and said they followed the correct procedures in Congress to pass it.
“We are doing nothing illegal, we’re doing things the way the law commands,” ruling party Sen. Milton Baron said Friday, adding that what Congress is doing is “to enable the people to speak with their votes at the polls and decide whether or not the constitutional amendment will proceed.”
Opposition lawmaker Norma Pierola of the Christian Democratic Party, or PDC, said Saturday that approval of the law will be “the death of democracy” and announced they will “fight” to keep the constitutional amendment from being approved at the polls.