14 Aug

Explaining the thing with cartoons

Explaining the thing with cartoons

Less than three months after the general elections of October 20, the government programs proposed by the 9 parties registered for the contest begin to be known and discussed. Last week we analyzed the results of the CiesMori survey, to give us an idea of the relative positions of the candidates in the acceptance of the electorate, admittedly at the beginning of the campaign period that, although short compared to other electoral processes in the region, It can undoubtedly present several surprises along the way, so it would be irresponsible to assume that everything is said.

On the contrary, it seems to me that a critical mass and political capital has been generated from the opposition that had not existed before, which has not so much to do with the intention of voting, but has much more to do with contrasting a continuous vision and even immobilist generated from a government too accustomed to power and that has lost its capacity for surprise and innovation, with a vision, perhaps two, that contrary to past oppositions does not threaten to throw the process of the last 14 years into the tacho, but which takes a more moderate position, which still takes ideas from the Bolivian national-popular tradition, admits the successes of the MAS government, and focuses on resolving and reversing its most serious weakness: the complete dismantling of the little institutionality that existed, the revanchist distastefulness that replaced the more axiological understanding of law.

I think that, in fact, just looking at the intention to vote would reveal a discouraging parallel with previous elections, so that Mesa would be capitalizing more or less the same electorate that capitalized on Samuel Doria Medina, and Oscar Ortiz would be the natural heir of the intention to vote by Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga, as Raúl Peñaranda has noted so well. However, I believe that other elements, such as the program's own approaches, much closer to the demands of the voters, but also the cautious optimism of the voters themselves who begin to see a change of government in democracy as a certain possibility.

Fig. 1. Adapted from Arpabone, 2008. Nolan diagram. Public domain image.

The intention of this document is, then, to try to understand the political positions taken by the 9 parties based on their proposals for government, beyond the recurring speeches and messages that are used in the spaces of political discussion, today sadly relegated to social networks and in the case of MAS to related social organizations, spaces that have in common sounding boards where preaching between converts is preached.

For this analysis, several inputs have been taken, so that it is about innovating a bit in the traditional methodologies of political discourse analysis. The fundamental basis is the Nolan Chart, created in 1969 by the American politician David Nolan. The graph defines the political positions with respect to two coordinate vectors, economic opinion and personal opinion, to produce a type of Cartesian system of political ideologies. The Nolan chart expands the analysis of political opinions beyond the traditional political spectrum measured by politics along a left-right one-dimensional axis to turn it into a two-dimensional chart: degree of economic freedom and degree of personal freedom.

The warning here is that David Nolan was a libertarian, that is, of the political current that seeks to maximize both personal freedom and economic freedom, minimizing, or even eliminating, state intervention in people's lives, so The technique has a bias towards that current of thought. In order not to fall into this bias, I strongly recommend the reader not to take the qualification of the positions of the parties as a “score”, much less as a competition, where the higher the position in the axes the better. This is not even remotely true and depends on the perception and political position of each one, and in reality what is sought is to see which of the proposals is more similar to the particular position of the voter, and not vice versa.

A second warning, and this is where the changes in the methodology begin, has to do with the battery of topics that the Nolan political test questionnaire deals with, which is what allows the interviewee to be located at the coordinates described above. The original test was designed for the socio-political context of its creator, that is, the United States of the 60s. Over time, the test was adjusted to incorporate themes that denoted new concerns of the citizens of that country, which demonstrates that the methodology is flexible, but among these issues there are several that are impracticable in the Bolivian reality, such as the opinion on the military intervention of the state itself in other states, or as access to immigrants' social services, subjects of course that do not worry us in this corner of the planet.

To solve the problem, I made a small survey last week in different spaces to try to find out what are the issues on the public agenda that concern Bolivians in 2019. This was done through a first analysis of the 9 government programs to detect recurring themes, without going into depth; a survey with an open question in social networks, which admittedly has a very small sample, but when it coincides with the other elements, it seems only to correctly reflect reality; and some previous research of mine or collective in which I participated. Thus, 10 topics related to personal freedom and 10 issues related to economic freedom that I think are priorities in the national public agenda for these elections were selected:

Personal freedom

- Legitimate elections and effective separation of public powers;

- Justice and human rights;

- Health coverage and insurance, quality of medical care;

- Adaptation and mitigation of climate change;

- Conservation and environmental quality;

- Autonomous regime;

- Inclusion and protection of vulnerable populations;

- Fight against gender violence;

- Police reform and citizen security;

- Formality in employment, decent work.

Economic freedom

- Quality of public investment and useful infrastructure;

- Modification of the extractivist model;

- Reform of the energy and productive matrix;

- Model of support to the productive sector;

- Tax reform;

- Fight against corruption;

- Fiscal balance, deficit and debt management;

- Attraction of investments;

- Reorganization of public administration;

- Territorial and sectoral fiscal pact.

Based on these 20 agenda items, a questionnaire with 20 closed questions was developed, the possible answers being organized as a Likert scale (eg strongly agree to strongly disagree), with scores of 0, 0.025, 0, 05, 0.075 and 0.1 depending on the denial of personal or economic freedom (it is something that should be the absolute responsibility of the State) or the promotion of absolute freedom on the subject (it is an issue on which the State should not get in at all). In each axis, thus, the score of the ten questions is added to give a rate of 0 to 1, or 0 to 100% if preferred, which allows to locate the coordinates on the “x” axis and on the “y axis” ”From our chart.

The answers to each of the twenty questions were extracted directly from the text of each of the nine proposals, by searching for keywords and meanings inferred from what was said, because frequently texts of this type are very cautious and are avoided. some particular words that could subtract instead of adding votes, such as "privatization", "austerity" or "confiscation", to give some examples. Even so, I find that the programs presented are, for the most part, transparent enough to apply the test with a certain degree of certainty, and there is some historical background that allows small calibrations to be made where necessary.

The last exercise in this analysis was the comparison with similar graphics made in October 2018, which was the launch of the beginning of the electoral year, and in March 2019, which coincided with the processes of primary elections of the parties (considering, in addition, that in none of the parties was presented more than one formula for the candidacy, so there was no comparison between positions of candidates of the same party, such as its yield for example if one makes the analysis of the North American electoral process). It is necessary as a methodological note, however, to warn that the comparison at different moments of the electoral process may be unfair, since the actors, except for the MAS, have undergone a process of building alliances and concessions necessary to build their proposals, so it is expected that there are changes in posture. More importantly, the methodology used is not the same. The political test applied in the first two graphs was the classic one, commented above, with some questions that are not relevant to Bolivia, but that do allow us to glimpse the ideological orientation, although without nuances. Second, the tests were filled out from the discourse analysis - the recurring themes in the speech of the candidates, press statements, messages published on social networks, unlike the most recent one that is based exclusively on the documentary analysis of the proposals, As explained. Comparisons may therefore be inaccurate, biased or incomplete, so caution is requested to interpret the data.

Finally, to reflect the intention to vote in the graph, a circle of size proportional to the intention of the last survey published before the date of the graph is assigned to the points that represent the parties or alliances.

Fig. 2. Location in Nolan chart of the national political parties registered in the EPO as of October 2018. Own elaboration.

Notice in the graph (October 2018) that two of the main contenders of this year's elections had not been formed. However, Carlos Mesa's candidacy was already being outlined, with the acronym “borrowed” from the FRI, and with a very important presence in the intention to vote. However, there is some dissonance between the candidate's profile and the acronym reflected in the graph, which would be corrected in the following graphs.

A year before the general elections, the MAS-IPSP maintained a strongly communitarian discourse, although closer to the democratic center than in previous elections, notably that of 2009, while its position - despite the language of anti-right confrontation, He was not particularly progressive, maintaining a balance between more classical leftist factions and more national-popular factions and some remnants of indigenism that was his initial strength but was abandoned over the years.

Finally, the rest of the acronyms in force at that time seem to conglomerate in a conservative trend center, lacking a very clear differentiation.

By March 2019, the acronyms in competition and their main candidates had already been defined, although not the electoral program or the candidates for the Legislative body. The alliances that would accompany the two main opposition parties were still very new at this time and both were struggling to build political cohesion, so both alliances in this period focus on a position as neutral and central as possible, to in order to generate agglutination, hoping to differentiate and build its vision of the country later, as would happen in the following three months.

Fig. 3. Nolan chart location of political parties and alliances registered for the primary elections as of March 2019. Own elaboration.

Note however that the Citizen Community alliance, formed by the FRI now in charge of Carlos Mesa, local center-left parties of La Paz and Tarija and some rather moderate citizen groups, active in the 21F movement, although it is located more close to the central axis between progressivism and conservatism, it does show itself more oriented towards a pro-citizen discourse (that is, opposed to communitarianism), unlike the Bolivia alliance Says No (which appropriates the 21F acronym as if the movement of citizen resistance was its patrimony) and of the MAS itself, which more or less maintain the initial position, the first conservative (considering its root in the Social Democratic Movement of Rubén Costas) and the second communitarian. Also noteworthy is the turn of the UCS of Victor Hugo Cárdenas towards an ultra-conservative position, far from the democratic center and already located on the margin of the graphic.

From this moment, however, they begin to build the most ideological and programmatic bases of the parties, which try to find their identity, on the one hand, but above all, something surprising and very remarkable for the young Bolivian democratic tradition, They try to collect the demand and citizen concerns and become what political parties should always be, which is a vehicle to bring these citizen concerns (or collective in the case of "social organizations") to the power dispute scenarios . It will be necessary, of course, to see the post-electoral behavior, so it is recommended not to get too many illusions, but I consider that this is one of the two fundamental differences between the 2014 and 2019 elections, the other being the obvious wear of the government party, originated mainly in the insistence on presenting the same candidacy through legal arguments that have already been discussed ad nauseam and without any tangible result.

Fig. 4. Nolan chart location of political parties and alliances registered for the general elections, as of July 2019. Own elaboration.

Note in Fig. 4 the remarkable transit of the three main parties or alliances towards more liberal speeches (more “up” in the graph), so that the MAS although it remains in the lower half of the table, largely abandons the Communitarian discourse and tries to place itself in a position of economic focus rather than cultural approach to the community, with a much more moderate, less populist and more progressive language. The MAS knows, or even assumes responsibility, for the demographic and social change that has occurred in Bolivia, and directs its speech to a younger, more urban, more middle class electorate with access to more information than its traditional voters. Although the MAS speech is very strong for continuity, of course, and 20% of its proposal is a direct copy of other planning documents of its authorship, which is also not surprising, there is still a stop that the MAS He has understood that his greatest political rival is the MAS, and tries to differentiate himself, although leaving large gaps in the spaces of discussion in which the capacity for self-criticism would have been of great importance. The basis of his proposal is still the 2025 Patriotic Agenda, but the message of the 13 tasks of that Agenda, which he admits is too general and abstract, lands on four concepts: (i) Social inclusion; (ii) Opportunities and employment; (iii) State for the people; and (iv) Development with respect for Mother Earth.

The Citizen Community also changes its position, although not its tendency - that is, it radicalizes the discourse that existed before - to the point that goes beyond the center of the spectrum and is located in a liberal position in the social and center-left in the economic, oriented towards a cultural approach towards the citizen, that is to say the construction of a State of citizens, approaching the speeches of social-democratic parties or even that of the American Democratic Party (the current post-Obama, not the neoliberal of the 90s). In this way, the Citizen Community defines its discourse much better, around four axes (namely: (i) Ethical democracy, which encompasses both the electoral system and the justice system, being the only proposal that puts the latter issue as a problem of democracy and not simply of citizen security; (ii) sustainable diversification, with a horizon of overcoming the extractivist model; (iii) Territories, read cities, creative and intelligent, betting on a more urban and globalized economic organization; and (iv) transformation social based on the development of human capital.

The Bolivia Dice No - 21F alliance is the one that shows the most radical change in its discourse, starting from a center-conservative position to a markedly liberal position and an economic focus on the individual. The document is strongly personalistic, which also suggests that this liberal turn is a direct effect of the candidacy of Oscar Ortiz, who is recognized as one of the most important liberal thinkers in the country. At the same time, it must be said, by moving away from the more traditional conservatism of Democrats, paradoxically, BDN is much closer to Carlos Mesa's speech, as can be seen in the graph, probably because he takes great care not to leave too many neoliberal thoughts, although He leaves the door open. Thus, although CC and BDN are very close in the liberal and pro-citizen quadrant, the approaches differentiate them as center-left the first and center-right the second. The BDN proposal is more pro-business, more focused on the essential services of the State (security, justice, education) and less friendly with what it calls the "paternalistic state", it is not encouraged to explicitly take positions contrary to the universal insurance of health with a single payer, to the entrepreneurial State, or to the monetary transfers, even inventing a euphemism called “basic floor of opportunities”, whose scope and meaning is still to be discovered. Also, and this is possibly the greatest bet of Ortiz's candidacy, the autonomist discourse that generated the widely studied political movements from the 2000s is recovered, even boldly proposing the decentralization of essential health and education services, including showing competition between subnational territories, which is highly controversial. It is not surprising, of course, the autonomist discourse itself - it is predictable considered the territorial niche of that party - but it does surprise the scope that it intends, speaking of a model of “federalization of autonomies within the framework of the Constitution”, which at Like the "basic floor", it requires much more explanation and development, hopefully during the campaign.

I have room only for some final notes about the smaller parties, those that hopefully aim to achieve one or two seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The loss of these small parties is sadly evident. Some take extreme positions to try to get some attention, such as the MNR that has the most conservative proposal - even more than that of the UCS of Víctor Hugo Cárdenas, who tried to flirt with Bolsonarism and had to go back to see that his extreme position I charged bill. Speaking of the UCS, that and some other parties, such as the PDC, include in their proposal things that nobody asked for and that are not even a topic of conversation in the Bolivian public agenda, such as the free carrying of weapons or the defense strategy under a war hypothesis against Chile (¿? ¿? ¿?). PAN-BOL is surprisingly progressive and environmentalist, and it is a shame that the political situation is not going to give them a chance to develop their proposal, much worse with the recent disputes between their two main candidates. The Third System Movement is everywhere in our analysis. Either your proposal is so original that it is proof of political test, or you simply do not decide what you want to be. Special cause for alarm is the Front For Victory, which apart from stealing the name of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's party, steals 67% of the Peruvian electoral program Party Order of former Minister Ántero Flores, so badly plagiarized that the Constitution mentions Politics of Peru and a series of institutions that do not exist in Bolivia. Plagiarism is not, moreover, exclusive assets of the FPV. Bolivia He said He is not very inspired by a speech by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera (6%) and texts by Henry Porto and the Millennium Foundation; the PDC takes several Colombian and Spanish sources, but at least recognizes authorship in appropriate citations; and PAN-BOL, of whom I liked the presentation, it turns out that half of the proposal was copied, also from various sources, but unlike the PDC without recognizing the source - something that becomes obvious when the document is read carefully, Too academic to be a political proposal. Since everything does not matter and does not seem to bother anyone this, I suggest that one of the three big parties copy the chapter 3 Ecological and Environmental Plan of PAN-BOL, this time citing the sources properly.


Esteban Morales has a degree in Legal Sciences with a Diploma in Local Economic Development Management.