Bolivians will now have the chance to decide whether they want President Evo Morales to be able to run for re-election after Congress voted in favor Thursday to proceed with the referendum.
The Bolivian Congress – integrated by the lower house and the senate – voted by two thirds of its 166 members to approve the law calling for the constitutional referendum on presidential re-election, which will be held on Feb. 21, 2016.
The referendum will ask Bolivians whether a constitutional two term limit for presidents and vice presidents should be amended, and the outcome will decide if Morales, who has been president since 2006, will be permitted to run for office again.
The new law also stipulates that any organization may campaign and issue communications on political issues without officially registering with the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
The next presidential elections are set to take place in 2019, and the president-elect will serve a five-year term lasting until 2025. If Morales is permitted to run again and wins, it would make him the longest-serving democratic president in Bolivia’s history.
Preliminary polling shows support for a “yes” vote on the referendum question of whether to allow presidential re-election, signaling that Morales could be headed for another presidential campaign.
While political opposition is against the referendum and has vowed to vote “no,” Morales’ ruling Movement Towards Socialism party says the referendum will give the power to the Bolivian people to make the decision. In a way, the vote will be a referendum on the achievements of the Morales government.
Under the government of Evo Morales, Bolivia's total GDP growth tripled from 2005 to 2013.
Since 2005, Morales has also implemented a variety of social programs that have reduced extreme poverty by more than 16 percent, from 38.2 percent in 2005 to 21.6 percent in 2012.