Morales Rides Economic Boom, to Stay in Power Until 2020

October 13, 2016

On Sunday October 12th, Bolivia held their national elections for the legislature and the presidency. In a landslide victory, incumbent Evo Morales of the Movement for Socialism Party won his third consecutive election with 59 percent of the vote.  The strongest opposition to Morales was Samuel Doria of the Democratic Union who received approximately 30 percent of the vote.  Former interim president Jorge Quiroga received slightly more than 11 percent.1 Both candidates have run for presidency in the past but have failed to garner enough support to seriously challenge Morales.  Morales, of indigenous descent, is seen as a man of the people and his domestic socialist policy only furthers this idea in the minds of the public.


Newly re-elected Evo Morales will serve until the year 2020. He was originally voted to power in the 2005 election. Under the Bolivian constitution, the president can be re-elected only once.  However, after a constitutional referendum Morales declared that his previous years as president (2006-09) would not count toward future re-election.  The Bolivian Supreme Court eventually upheld Morales’ decision that he was eligible for election in 2009 and re-election in 2014.2


Morales was allegedly able to win easily due to two main factors. First, the elections have been called corrupt by outside sources.  Columnist Andres Oppenheimer slammed the election as undemocratic in an article published by the Miami Herald.  Referencing an interview with Samuel Doria Medina, Oppenheimer claims that Morales has used public funds for several years to ramp up support while limiting the opposition TV access and campaign signs.  According to Medina, the government has also taken down opposition campaign signs.3


The second apparent factor behind Morales’ sweeping victory is the recent economic boom that Bolivia has experienced.  The boom is due primarily to the nationalization of the gas and oil industry in Bolivia.  In 2013 Bolivia ranked 10th in the world in natural gas exports and sits on some of the largest natural gas reserves in the entire region.4 The nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry in 2005 has allowed Morales to vastly increase public expenditure, especially on social programs.  The number of Bolivians living in extreme poverty has fallen from 38 percent to roughly 25 percent.5 Morales has also lowered the retirement age from 65 to 58 and allowed members of the informal market access to pensions.6 In addition, Bolivian officials have stated that over one million people have entered the middle class under Morales’ rule.5


However, it is not certain whether Bolivia’s focus on natural gas and oil exports will be able to foster sustained long-term growth.  In 2011 gas and oil comprised 87% of the exports earnings value at over $USD 9.1 billion.5 While beneficial in the short run, relying on non-renewable natural resources will not pan out over the long term. In his third and last term (at least constitutionally) Morales will need to focus funds earned by oil and natural gas and invest in development that will sustain the growth spurred by the nationalization of natural gas and oil.   





(1) Bolivia Official Results See Morales’ Vote Drop to 55%. Oct 14, 2014. Available at:


(2) Bolivia's Morales on course for re-election in first round: poll Oct 1, 2014. Available at:


(3) Andres Oppenheimer: Bolivia’s election result is hardly in question. Sept 10, 2014 Available at:


(4) Bolivia. Available at:


(5) Bolivia’s Leftist Leader Ushers in Economic Boom. Nov 12, 2012 Available at:


(6) Evo Morales Introduces Radical Bolivia Pension Reform. Dec 10, 2010 Available at:(6)


About Author(s)

Connor Weber's picture
Connor Weber
Connor Weber is an undergraduate senior at the University of Pittsburgh where he majors in Political Science along with a minor in Spanish and a certificate in Latin American studies. In the Spring of 2013 he studied abroad in Cuba for the semester as part of the program Pitt in Cuba. His time there greatly shaped his interest in U.S. foreign policy and U.S. & Latin American relations. He currently works as an intern for Panoramas and is eager to conduct research this summer in Costa Rica.