Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon BOLIVAR, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of coups and countercoups, with the last coup occurring in 1978. Democratic civilian rule was established in 1982, but leaders have faced difficult problems of deep-seated poverty, social unrest, and illegal drug production.
In December 2005, Bolivians elected Movement Toward Socialism leader Evo MORALES president – by the widest margin of any leader since the restoration of civilian rule in 1982 – after he ran on a promise to change the country’s traditional political class and empower the nation’s poor, indigenous majority. In December 2009 and October 2014, President MORALES easily won reelection. His party maintained control of the legislative branch of the government, which has allowed him to continue his process of change. In February 2016, MORALES narrowly lost a referendum to approve a constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to compete in the 2019 presidential election. However, a 2017 Supreme Court ruling stating that term limits violate human rights provided the justification for MORALES to be chosen by his party to run again in 2019. MORALES attempted to claim victory in the 20 October 2019 election, but widespread allegations of electoral fraud, rising violence, and pressure from the military ultimately forced him to flee the country. An interim government is preparing new elections for 2020.
chief of state: Interim President Jeanine ANEZ Chavez (since 12 November 2019); Vice President (vacant); note – the president is both chief of state and head of government
note: former President Juan Evo MORALES Ayma resigned from office on 10 November 2019 over alleged election rigging; resignations of all his constitutionally designated successors followed, including the Vice President, President of the Senate, President of the Chamber of Deputies, and First Vice President of the Senate, leaving the Second Vice President of the Senate, Jeanine ANEZ Chavez, the highest-ranking official still in office; her appointment to the presidency was endorsed by Bolivia’s Constitutional Court
head of government: Interim President Jeanine ANEZ Chavez (since 12 November 2019); Vice President (vacant)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections/appointments: president and vice president directly elected on the same ballot one of 3 ways: candidate wins at least 50% of the vote, or at least 40% of the vote and 10% more than the next highest candidate; otherwise a second round is held and the winner determined by simple majority vote; president and vice president are elected by majority vote to serve a 5-year term; no term limits (changed from two consecutive term limit by Constitutional Court in late 2017); election last held on 20 October 2019 (next to be held on 3 May 2020); note – on 10 November 2019, as a result of an Organization of American States report citing manipulations of the voting system, President Juan Evo MORALES Ayma announced that the October election results would be annulled and called for fresh elections; MORALES resigned from his position later that day
results from the 12 October 2014 election: Juan Evo MORALES Ayma reelected president; percent of vote – Juan Evo MORALES Ayma (MAS) 61%; Samuel DORIA MEDINA Arana (UN) 24.5%; Jorge QUIROGA Ramirez (POC) 9.1%; other 5.4%
results from the annulled 20 October 2019 election: Juan Evo MORALES Ayma reelected president; percent of vote – Juan Evo MORALES Ayma (MAS) 47.1%; Carlos Diego MESA Gisbert (CC) 36.5%; CHI Hyun Chung (PDC) 8.8%; Oscar ORTIZ Antelo (MDS) 4.2%, other 3.4%; note – MORALES was reelected without runoff because his margin over the runner-up was more than 10%
note: weeks of protest in La Paz and other cities over allegations of fraud following the October 2019 general election, an announcement by the Organization of American States that the election was manipulated, and pressure from the Bolivian military all culminated in the annulment of the election and the resignation of President Juan Evo MORALES Ayma on 10 November 2019; Interim President Jeanine ANEZ Chavez has pledged to hold new elections as soon as possible
description: bicameral Plurinational Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional consists of:
Chamber of Senators or Camara de Senadores (36 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote; members serve 5-year terms)
Chamber of Deputies or Camara de Diputados (130 seats; 70 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote, 53 directly elected in single-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote, and 7 – apportioned to non-contiguous, rural areas in 7 of the 9 states – directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote; members serve 5-year terms)
Chamber of Senators – last held on 20 October 2019 (next to be held in 2020 with new presidential elections)
Chamber of Deputies – last held on 20 October 2019 (next to be held in 2020 with new presidential elections)
Chamber of Senators – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – MAS 21, ACC 14, MDS 1
Chamber of Deputies – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – MAS 67, ACC 50, PDC 9, MDS 4
highest courts: Supreme Court or Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (consists of 12 judges or ministros organized into civil, penal, social, and administrative chambers); Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal (consists of 7 primary and 7 alternate magistrates); Plurinational Electoral Organ (consists of 7 members and 6 alternates); National Agro-Environment Court (consists of 5 primary and 5 alternate judges; Council of the Judiciary (consists of 3 primary and 3 alternate judges)
judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court, Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal, National Agro-Environmental Court, and Council of the Judiciary candidates pre-selected by the Plurinational Legislative Assembly and elected by direct popular vote; judges elected for 6-year terms; Plurinational Electoral Organ judges appointed – 6 by the Legislative Assembly and 1 by the president of the republic; members serve single 6-year terms
subordinate courts: National Electoral Court; District Courts (in each of the 9 administrative departments); agro-environmental lower courts
Political parties and leaders
- Christian Democratic Party or PDC [Jorge Fernando QUIROGA Ramirez]
- Community Citizen Alliance or ACC [Carlos Diego MESA Gisbert]
- Movement Toward Socialism or MAS [Juan Evo MORALES Ayma]
- National Unity or UN [Samuel DORIA MEDINA Arana]
- Social Democrat Movement or MDS [Ruben COSTAS Aguilera]
note: the Democrat Unity Coalition or UD [Samuel DORIA MEDINA Arana] was a coalition comprised of several of the largest opposition parties participating in the 2014 election, which included the Democrats (MDS), National Unity Front (UN), and Without Fear Movement
Bolivia is a resource rich country with strong growth attributed to captive markets for natural gas exports – to Brazil and Argentina. However, the country remains one of the least developed countries in Latin America because of state-oriented policies that deter investment.
Following an economic crisis during the early 1980s, reforms in the 1990s spurred private investment, stimulated economic growth, and cut poverty rates. The period 2003-05 was characterized by political instability, racial tensions, and violent protests against plans – subsequently abandoned – to export Bolivia’s newly discovered natural gas reserves to large Northern Hemisphere markets. In 2005-06, the government passed hydrocarbon laws that imposed significantly higher royalties and required foreign firms then operating under risk-sharing contracts to surrender all production to the state energy company in exchange for a predetermined service fee; the laws engendered much public debate. High commodity prices between 2010 and 2014 sustained rapid growth and large trade surpluses with GDP growing 6.8% in 2013 and 5.4% in 2014. The global decline in oil prices that began in late 2014 exerted downward pressure on the price Bolivia receives for exported gas and resulted in lower GDP growth rates – 4.9% in 2015 and 4.3% in 2016 – and losses in government revenue as well as fiscal and trade deficits.
A lack of foreign investment in the key sectors of mining and hydrocarbons, along with conflict among social groups, pose challenges for the Bolivian economy. In 2015, President Evo MORALES expanded efforts to court international investment and boost Bolivia’s energy production capacity. MORALES passed an investment law and promised not to nationalize additional industries in an effort to improve the investment climate. In early 2016, the Government of Bolivia approved the 2016-2020 National Economic and Social Development Plan aimed at maintaining growth of 5% and reducing poverty.
Unless otherwise specified, the information above comes from the Central Intelligence Agency’s The World Factbook. All photos and text reproduced here are in the public domain. Last updated on March 18, 2020.