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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09LAPAZ1285
2009-09-09 21:51:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy La Paz
Cable title:  

BATTLE LINES DRAWN FOR DECEMBER ELECTIONS

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  KDEM  INR  PHUM  BL 
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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L LA PAZ 001285 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/08/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM INR PHUM BL
SUBJECT: BATTLE LINES DRAWN FOR DECEMBER ELECTIONS

REF: A. LA PAZ 1256

B. LA PAZ 496

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires John Creamer, reasons 1.4 (b, d)

C O N F I D E N T I A L LA PAZ 001285

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/08/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM INR PHUM BL
SUBJECT: BATTLE LINES DRAWN FOR DECEMBER ELECTIONS

REF: A. LA PAZ 1256

B. LA PAZ 496

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires John Creamer, reasons 1.4 (b, d)


1. (SBU) Summary: With the passage of the September 7 filing
deadline, eight parties have registered to contest the
December 6 elections for Bolivia's presidency and
Plurinational Assembly (Congress). Three parties are set to
split the bulk of the opposition vote, greatly strengthening
President Morales's already-strong prospects for re-election.
Morales's ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party is
likely to maintain control of the Assembly's lower house, but
the opposition still has a (slim) chance to keep control of
the Senate. End summary.

Four Main Candidates
--------------


2. (SBU) After an eventful week in which three of six leading
opposition candidates dropped out of the presidential race --
briefly raising expectations that the opposition might form a
unified front against President Morales -- on September 7
Morales's ruling MAS party and three leading opposition
parties officially registered for the December 6 national
elections. In addition to President Morales, La Paz-based
business leader Samuel Doria Medina, former Cochabamba Mayor
Manfred Reyes Villa, and Potosi Mayor Rene Joaquino declared
their candidacies. Four other parties also registered, but
none is considered likely to have a significant impact.

Cardenas Out, Lambasts Opposition Options
--------------


3. (C) Former Vice President Victor Hugo Cardenas and former
President Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga both dropped out of the race
in the final days leading up to the registration deadline.
Quiroga admitted he had lost popular and financial support in
his former stronghold of Santa Cruz and could not afford to
go forward. Cardenas publicly stated that he did not want to
splinter the opposition and was leaving the race for the
country's greater good. Cardenas told Poloff privately,
however, that he viewed Doria Medina as too close to the MAS
and Reyes Villa's advisors as too corrupt. "If Doria Medina
loses, he will still have to work with the MAS on roads and

infrastructure projects; he cannot afford to be too
critical," said Cardenas.


4. (C) Cardenas' complaints summarize popular concerns about
the two principal opposition candidates. Doria Medina is
viewed as running as much to save his large cement business
from nationalization as to lead the country, while Reyes
Villa and his team are seen as prone to cronyism and
corruption. Reyes Villa worked in various capacities with
former dictators Luis Garcia Meza and Hugo Banzer as well as
expelled former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, all of
which the MAS is expected to exploit during the campaign. On
September 8, in comments to the press, Vice President Alvaro
Garcia Linera echoed Cardenas' private remarks, labeling
Doria Medina as "the democratic right" (presumably, the MAS's
preferred opposition) and Reyes Villa "the authoritarian
right."

Presidency Not in Danger
--------------


5. (SBU) Even if Doria Medina and Reyes Villa campaign well
against Morales, their fracturing of the opposition vote
seems to guarantee President Morales' re-election. Polls and
Embassy contacts point to a Morales win with a percentage
similar to his 2005 victory, when he won with 53 percent of
the vote. With a relatively strong economy and the solid
backing of the country's indigenous and working-class
populations, Morales remains very popular, dominating every
opinion survey. Together, Doria Medina and Reyes Villa could
take perhaps as much as 40 percent of the vote. The only
other significant candidate, Rene Joaquino, has not polled
well nationally and is likely to garner support only in his
home region of Potosi. Of the four other candidates, former
MAS founder Roman Loayza has the potential to take votes away
from Morales from the left, but polls have shown his support
at no more than two percent. The other three candidates have
barely registered in polls, and their campaigns could take
away as much support from the opposition candidates as from
President Morales.

Senate Still in Play?
--------------


6. (SBU) The presidential race will likely result in a
decisive Morales victory, but the race for overall control of
the Senate -- where all 36 seats are in play -- is closer
(septel). Initial polling and Embassy contacts indicate the
three leading opposition candidates could ally to give the
MAS a fight. While the MAS is the dominant party nationwide,
Reyes Villa, Doria Medina, and Joaquino each have pockets of
regional support that could add up to a significant number of
Senate seats.


7. (SBU) Reyes Villa could do well in Chuquisaca, Cochabamba,
Beni, and Pando, while Doria Medina could win seats in La Paz
(his home department), Oruro, Santa Cruz, and Tarija.
Joaquino's Alianza Social party is not likely to do well
anywhere but in Potosi, but his party could win two Senate
seats there. If the opposition candidates do not cannibalize
each other's support, together they could challenge what many
say is a 20 to 16 lead for the MAS. A secondary (and more
realistic) objective for the opposition is to deny the MAS
the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution
further.

Comment
--------------


8. (C) In discussions with a range of opposition senators,
representatives, and past government members, the mood is
bleak, with many predicting MAS control of both houses of the
Plurinational Assembly and a Morales presidential landslide.
We view this as the most likely scenario, especially given
the opposition's inability to unite under a common banner.
Still, the final constellation of opposition candidates has a
slim chance of stopping the MAS drive to win the Senate.
Some give Reyes Villa, a pugnacious and fiery campaigner, a
chance to capture seats that would otherwise turn to the MAS.
Barring some extraordinary, unexpected development, however,
Bolivia seems headed for five years of unfettered MAS control
of government. End comment.
CREAMER