Bolivia and why transparency in an election is the key to almost everything


Photo By: Los Tiempos

In Politics, transparency is an essential quality that processes and actions must have in order to pass through public scrutiny with flying colors. In recent events in Bolivia, the impact of this condition on politics and elections was evident.

This South American country went to the polls on October 20 to renew the Republic’s presidency, and although the day was completed without major incidents, at the end of the process the legality and legitimacy of elected authorities, as well as those of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) were hindered by lack of transparency.

Specifically, after closing the polls and while rapid counting, that is, the Transmission of Preliminary Electoral Results (TREP) was being carried out, the process took a 180-degree turn, because the TSE suspended the provisional counting for almost a day, without any explanation.

Bolivian nationals and the world saw how with almost 84% of the ballots already verified, a second-round scenario was raised between President Evo Morales and his main adversary, ex-president Carlos Mesa; 23 hours later, when the TREP was resumed and with 95% counted, the ballotage, or runoff voting, was no longer possible.

Doubts and suspicions led Mesa to cry fraud, and also led the observation mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) to report irregularities. Despite this, the TSE confirmed —five days later— that Morales would not require a second round, and authorized an audit.

This verification of the tally is in process and has also suffered obscure events, such as the resignation of the leader of the OAS team that must review the election and the intense protests that have burst in various regions of the country. When the results of an election are riddled with doubt, the tranquility and peace of a country are affected.

What has happened shows that the decision —clueless until now— of the authorities to suspend the diffusion of the TREP, caused a break in the transparency of the process, which further blatantly shows that Bolivia is deep into a crisis caused by the lack of a swift and secure tallying system. And even more important, a tallying system that allows auditing in real time the count reports received and processed.

The country lags an enormous distance behind some of its Latin American peers, where automated systems are in force safeguarding the most important phases of their elections.

For example, while Brazil took only a few hours to complete the count in the second round of the 2014 presidential elections, which results were also very narrow; in Argentina, on October 27, thanks to the new logistics and technological platform implemented, the results of the preliminary count were published just three hours after the voting was closed, with 70% of the reports already processed.

The evils shown during the latest electoral processes seem to indicate that there is no longer room for indecision in Bolivia, and it is time to advance in the modernization of their system before distrust on the part of the electorate undermines participation and Democracy.

TSE looks to set an agenda on electoral technology in Bolivia


The last electoral process in Bolivia, a constitutional referendum on presidential reelection which took place in February 2016, showed the country’s need to transition to a voting model that will not keep the population waiting for transparent and timely results.

With this objective in mind, the recently elected president of the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), Katia Uriona, announced that in his new tenure she will look to set an agenda for the organism: moving towards the adoption of technology to improve the system.

Currently the country uses two methods to get electoral results. “One is a quick transmission of results, which involves photographed election returns that are uploaded to a website managed by the Court; the other is an official vote tally in every department, using the physical election returns after they are validated” she explained.

However, none of these processes let the Court deliver an official count at the end of election day, which meant the country had to settle for exit polls.

To overcome these shortcomings, Uriona said they are analyzing the eventual implementation of automated voting for Bolivians residing abroad. They are specifically evaluating the technical feasibility and cost of e-voting, as well as the legal reformation needed for such a project, in order to shape what would be the nation´s first modern automated voting model.

Within this framework, the TSE admitted that during their last electoral process, the Organization of American States (OAS) observation team detected some irregularities and created a report with recommendations that are yet to be implemented; however, according to Uriona, the report will be discussed with aims of setting a schedule for enacting these suggestions

The text claims that “the mission witnessed that the publication of results was slow”, and it suggests “to execute the necessary legislative changes and programs so that the electoral authority is able to provide preliminary electoral results that are highly precise and will not be questioned”.

The vices shown during the last electoral processes seem to indicate there is no longer a margin for hesitation or indecisiveness in Bolivia. The TSE has said the country is prepared to assume the challenge of adopting technology. Now it is time to show there is also commitment to this goal.