| LA PAZ, April 7
LA PAZ, April 7 Bolivian lawmakers may vote on
Tuesday on changes to electoral law that the opposition says
could make it easier for leftist President Evo Morales to win
control of the legislature in December's general election.
The bill, which Morales sent to Congress to implement
reforms in a new Constitution designed to give more power to
the Indian majority, could help his backers by assigning more
seats to rural and indigenous areas where he is popular.
The president's Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS, party
enjoys an overall majority in Congress when both houses convene
but the opposition could block a vote on Tuesday night by
staying away and preventing a quorum.
The lower house, controlled by MAS, has already approved
the bill. The Senate, where the opposition has a narrow
majority, has rejected it.
Morales, Bolivia's first Indian leader, won solid victories
in a recall vote last May and a constitutional referendum in
January, showing strong backing for his leftist and
But the Senate continues to block his reforms, forcing him
to rule by decree. Morales has increased state control of key
sectors of the economy, including the natural gas industry and
a telecommunications company.
The new bill calls for the creation of 14 special
indigenous electoral districts all over the country, in places
where Indian groups are a minority.
"To use a soccer analogy ... they don't want a game of 11
players against 11 players, they want to play a game of 16
players against 11," former President Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga, of
the rightist Podemos party, said last week.
Some experts say the opposition's complaints are overdone
given there will be 130 seats in the lower house and 36 in the
Senate under the new Constitution.
"I don't think 14 seats give you control of Congress," said
Kathryn Ledebur, head of the Andean Information Network think
tank. "Nor is it a forgone conclusion that indigenous
representation will eternally support (Morales' party)."
She said the opposition is weaker than before Morales took
office in January 2006 partly because "their own sloppy
heavy-handed tactics" of "blocking and impeding."
Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, has seen
decades of political upheaval.
The opposition is divided ahead of the election in
December, when Morales will be up for reelection and new
lawmakers will be chosen.
Podemos has yet to announce a presidential candidate, while
several low-profile right-wing and center-left politicians have
said they intend to compete against Morales.
(Additional reporting by Carlos Quiroga and Diego Ore; Editing
by John O'Callaghan)