Bolivian Electoral Court Campaigns for Morales, Chief Resigns

Wilma Velasco said she was resigning “for the good” of Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal. (Correo del Sur)

EspañolBolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) confirmed on Monday the resignation of two of its members, including its president, after multiple allegations linking the judicial body with the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party.

Wilma Velasco, at the head of the TSE since 2012, told press that she was “relaxed” after having handed in her notice, but was “tired” of the fallout from a video in which her colleague, Ramiro Paredes, can be seen dancing at a birthday party organized for him by MAS authorities.

Senators of the opposition Democrat Unity coalition (UD) first disseminated the video on May 6, calling for the resignation of Paredes. The TSE official finally presented his letter of resignation on Tuesday to the Legislative Assembly, saying that he was stepping down for “the good of the institution.”

He also hoped that by quitting his post he might repair some of the damage done to the TSE’s credibility by fierce criticism following the most recent local and departmental elections in the country.

“Things happen for a reason, I probably didn’t know about the presence of the people with these characteristics … and it happened, for a greater good, to give credibility to the Electoral Tribunal,” Paredes added, explaining that he “saw people and not political colors” at the birthday party.

Velasco abstained in a vote which suspended Paredes without pay a week ago.

Tribunal on the Campaign Trail

Bolivia’s opposition parties have complained about links between the TSE’s six spokesmen and the ruling party of President Evo Morales. National daily El Deber has been among those to mention Wilfredo Ovando, who was photographed campaigning publicly in favor of MAS in Cochabamba, and Irineo Zuna, who also did her bit to drum up votes for the ruling party.

Spokeswoman Dina Chuquimia was also denounced for belonging to one of the constituent parties that form MAS, while Marco Ayala has various links with state firm Epsas.

Betzabé Zagarra was also suspended alongside Paredes after being accused of peddling influence, nepotism, and political campaigning on behalf of MAS after she supported a government candidate for local governor.

One of the most questionable TSE activities in 2015, however, was the cancellation of the legal status of the UD in Beni Department, traditionally an opposition-voting area of the country.

With this decision, taken only eight days before elections in March, the TSE disqualified 228 candidates, among them the favorite for the governorship.

“This tribunal received no pressure of any kind; the only pressure is from the law and the Constitution,” Velasco said at the time, stating that the votes that went towards the UD on the ballots would be taken into account for statistics.

Senator Oscar Ortíz (UD), one of those that backed calls for Paredes’s resignation, told the PanAm Post that the resignation of the TSE president was an appropriate measure to take.

Ortíz argued that the electoral authority was going through a profound institutional crisis, and had lost credibility through the various activities of its members.

“We denounced the tribunal member Paredes because of the birthday party that MAS threw for him. But also for the abusive measures that the TSE has taken, such as the exclusion of the 288 candidates, and all its members are responsible for this,” he explained.

Finally, the senator added that his party was seeking the resignation of all the tribunal’s members. “We’re going to seek the support of public opinion and citizens so we can, as one, demand that the government name independent people to reestablish the credibility of the TSE,” he concluded.

Translated by Laurie Blair.

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