Latin leftists reshape democracy
Bolivians vote Sunday on the fate of President Evo Morales and other top officials.
In a high-stakes vote, Bolivians will decide Sunday whether populist President Evo Morales gets to keep his job.
It's the latest in a string of popular votes called for by Latin America's new crop of leftist leaders whose reforms have brought a sense of inclusion to the poor and, some say, strengthened democracy. But others say it reverses the region's democratic gains. By bringing votes directly to the people, leaders are bypassing checks and balances and centralizing power in their own hands.
"There is a cascade of reform movements, and there is no doubt that Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela are inspired by what is going on in each other's countries," says Zachary Elkins, an assistant professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. "What is common to all these revisions is more power to the president." Since Mr. Morales took office as Bolivia's first indigenous president in January 2006, his efforts to "refound" the country with a new Constitution have been stalled by an opposition that favors the market-friendly status quo.
In a bid to end the Andean country's increasingly tense political stalemate, Morales has called for a recall referendum this Sunday. Citizens will decide whether he and a group of opposition governors will stay in office.
The politics of the referendums have been, in some cases, the outcome of a wedge grown larger as Latin America seeks a new direction, away from the elites who have ruled for centuries.
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