Bolivia pre-election update

Two recent polls in Bolivia’s December 18 legislative/presidential election have somewhat different results, though both put Evo Morales of the MAS in the lead.

A poll by Apoyo, Opinión y Mercado has Morales at 36% and former president Jorge Quiroga at 30%. Another by Grupo Ipsos Captura has Morales at 32.8% and Quiroga at 27.7%. Both results confirm the obvious–that, under Bolivia’s constitution, it is the congress that will determine whether Morales or Quiroga becomes president–but the stakes are rather different depending on which poll (if either) is closer to reality.

If Morales is really around 36% and has such a healthy lead over Quiroga, the consequences–in terms of unrest by Morales supporters–of congress selecting the runner up would be much greater than if the candidates are closer to one another, with Morales falling below one third. (Those exams I have been alluding to contain a question precisely on what is in the interests of the parties other than MAS in the event a poll like the Apoyo one proves more accurate.)

So, which poll is likely more accurate? The sample sizes are similar. The Apoyo poll has a margin of error of 1.6%, while Ipsos has a margin of error of 2%. More importantly, Apoyo’s poll is based on 37 cities, while Ipsos is based on only ten. I have doubts about any poll in an Andean country that is conducted only in cities, but 37 is bound to be a lot more representative than 10. So, without knowing anything more about the polls and their samples, I would have to guess that the Apoyo poll (Morales at 36%) is likely more accurate.

The congressional outcome will be as crucial as the lead for Morales and the MAS. The vote for Congress is on a common slate with the presidential candidates, and it is the newly elected congress that selects the president from the top two. The congressional composition cannot be directly inferred from the presidential numbers, however, because allocation of seats is not by nationwide PR. Rather, the lower house is elected by MMP with proportionality determined department by department. (Each department has a number of seats corresponding to its population, albeit with some bias in favor of smaller departments.) In the senate, in each department the top slate elects two senators and the runner up one. The presidential selection takes place in a joint sitting of the two chambers.

Which candidate becomes president thus will depend on the balance of parties in that joint session, as well as on each party’s perceptions of the political costs of voting for the front-runner, Morales, who is perceived as an extremist, versus the runner-up, whose selection could ignite widespread protest.

I posted previously on the Bolivian elections on October 1 (on their possible cancellation, which turned out to be only a short postponement) and October 2 (on the comparisons of Morales to Venezuela’s Chávez).

0 thoughts on “Bolivia pre-election update

  1. First, I was thrilled to find this site. Not enough academic blogs out there. Yet. And this is a good one.

    As to the Bolivia polling data. I appreciate the comment you left on my blog about the two polls, but I still think Evo’s numbers are soft (that they’re higher than what I think his real ballot share will be). Mostly, just because most of the polls only ask voters “who do you support?”, but not whether or not they’ll vote. I think voter absenteeism will hurt Evo slightly more than Tuto (Evo’s support is higher among the poor & older voters than Tuto). But this, of course, is just speculation.

    What’s intersting is that some of the polls (I link to many of them) look at “second-preference” voting. And here, we see that Evo’s support is wide, but not deep. More voters tilt towards Doria Medina or Tuto as a second preference. It seems Evo is a Condorcet loser, the Condorcet winner is either Tuto or Doria Medina. But since parliament must elect from among the top two candidates only, unless Doria Medina makes a come-from-behind upset to place second, I can’t see how other legislators will vote for Evo, rather than Tuto.

    Of course, both candidates have vowed to respect the first plurality, so I guess anything goes. But if Evo wins, he’ll face an opposition-dominated Senate (perhaps also the lower house), and political opponents holding all 9 prefectures. So there’s that, too.

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