Bolivia Government and Politics

State and politics

Bolivia Country Flag

Historically, Bolivia has been one of the world’s most unstable countries, and its various constitutions have only in exceptional cases been complied with. More than 200 heads of state have led the republic after independence in 1825.

The army has almost always been a powerful political force in Bolivia, and a large part of the country’s presidents have been generals. The miners’ organizations were also important extra-parliamentary centers of power in 20th century Bolivia. There are about ten parties, with some popular support, but the party system has undergone major changes in recent decades.

The geographical dimension is important in Bolivian politics. For a long time, there have been strong contradictions between the more densely populated highlands in the west (colla), where Bolivia’s traditional mining industry, major cities and political centers of power are located, and the lowlands in the east (camba), where the new oil and gas deposits and agro-industrial complexes lie.

This division also has an ethnic and ideological dimension; In the highlands, Indians dominate and Bolivia’s left-wing party also originated there, while Miseries dominate the lowlands where the opposition is strongest. The contradictions are sometimes manifested in threats from the highlands to separate from the rest of the country.


Bolivia’s new constitution was approved in a referendum in January 2009 and gives the state greater control over the economy and increased regional self-government. The country is further defined as a multinational state with several indigenous groups as recognized minorities.

The president, who has broad powers, is both the head of state and government. The term of office is five years. Actually, a president can sit for a maximum of two terms in a row, but exemptions have been made for Evo Morales, who was re-elected for the second time in 2014 and allowed to run for a fourth term in the 2019 elections. percent of the votes and a victory margin of at least 10 percentage points.

The congress, made up of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, was redefined as a multicultural assembly and holds the legislative power. The Senate consists of 36 members (four for each of the country’s nine provinces) and the Chamber of Deputies of 130. Representation for indigenous people was strengthened through the 2009 constitution. In both cases, the terms of office are five years. All married citizens over 18 and unmarried over 21 own the right to vote.


Parliament has been dominated by Evo Morales party Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), which has grown into Bolivia’s largest party. MAS was formed in 1998 by a number of left-wing groups that criticized the market liberal policy and the alliance with the United States.

The party has long had the most support from poor people from the indigenous people in the countryside but in recent years has also grown among the middle class of the cities. In 2009, MAS won a two-thirds majority in the congressional elections and was thus able to make changes to the constitution on its own.

The party also became the largest in the 2019 elections. However, MAS reversed and lost the majority in the Chamber of Deputies but retained most seats in the Senate. The second largest party and leader in the opposition to Morale’s politics is the Frente Revolucionario de Izquierda Center Party led by Carlos Mesa, President 2003–05.

Two other parties are represented in Parliament: the Christian Democratic Party, Demócrata Cristiano and the Liberal Party, Demócratas.

In 2019, Morales ran for a fourth term and was challenged primarily by Carlos Mesa. The turnout was high, 89 percent. On election night, preliminary figures showed that Morales received 45 percent of the vote against 38 percent for Mesa, which would lead to a second round of elections. But during the night the bill was temporarily halted and when new figures were published in the morning, Morale’s takeover had increased and approached the 10 percentage point victory margin required to win in the first round. This led to violent protests around the country and accusations of electoral fraud. After a few days, the electoral authority announced that Evo Morales had won 47.1 percent of the vote against Mesa’s 36.5 percent. Both the opposition and several international organizations called for an independent recasting of the votes to ensure the result.

After the election, Evo Morale’s disputed candidacy led to violent protests. At the request of the country’s army chief, Morales was finally forced to leave power and resign.


Apart from the Supreme Court in Sucre, the judicial organization consists mainly of higher and lower district courts. The legal order is codified according to continental European models. The most important codifications are the Civil Code, the Commercial Code, the Family Act, the Criminal Code, the Civil Procedure Act and the Criminal Procedure Act. The death penalty was abolished in 1997 for crimes during peacetime but can still be punished under war or warlike conditions. The last execution took place in 1974.

Heads of State


1880-84 Narciso Campero
1884-88 Gregorio Pacheco
1888-92 Aniceto Arce
1892-96 Mariano Baptista
1896-99 Severo Fernandez
1899-1904 José Manuel Pando
1904-1909 Ismael Montes
1909-13 Eliodoro Villazón
1913-17 Ismael Montes
1917-20 José Gutiérrez
1921-25 Bautista Saavedra
1925-26 Felipe Guzmán
1926-30 Hernando Siles
1930-31 Carlos Blanco Galindo
1931-34 Daniel Salamanca
1934-36 José Luis Tejada
1936-37 David Toro
1937-39 Germán Busch
1939-40 Carlos Quintanilla
1940-43 Enrique Peñaranda
1943-46 Gualberto Villaroel
1946 Néstor Guillén
1946-47 Tomás Monje
1947-49 Enrique Hertzog
1949-51 Mamerto Urriolagoitía
1951-52 Hugo Ballivián
1952 Hernán Siles Zuazo
1952-56 Víctor Paz Estenssoro
1956-60 Hernán Siles Zuazo
1960-64 Víctor Paz Estenssoro
1964-66 René Barrientos
Alfredo Ovando
1966-69 René Barrientos
1969 Luis Adolfo Siles Salinas
1969-70 Alfredo Ovando
1970-71 Juan José Torres
1971-78 Hugo Banzer
1978 Juan Pereda
1978-79 David Padilla
1979 Walter Guevara
1979 Alberto Natusch Busch
1979-80 Lidia Gueiler Tejada
1980-81 Luis García Meza
1981 military junta with three commanders
1981-82 Celso Torrelio
1982 Guido Vildoso
1982-85 Hernán Siles Zuazo
1985-89 Víctor Paz Estenssoro
1989-93 Jaime Paz Zamora
1993-97 Gonzálo Sánchez de Lozado
1997-2001 Hugo Banzer
2001-02 Jorge Fernando Quiroga Ramírez
2002-03 Gonzálo Sánchez de Lozado
2003-05 Carlos Mesa
2005-06 Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé
2006-19 Evo Morales
2019- Jeanine Añez (interim president)

Human Rights

After Evo Morales took over the presidential power in Bolivia in 2005, the country has undergone major political, social and economic changes. Reports from human rights organizations show success in respect for human rights. However, the positive changes are hampered by the state’s failure to prosecute and punish those guilty of abuses committed during the country’s history of military dictatorships.

Bolivia’s main problems can be linked to widespread corruption and a weak judicial system, which greatly affects the country’s indigenous population and women. The indigenous peoples’ access to the justice system is hampered by linguistic and economic barriers, and racism and discrimination by the various indigenous peoples occurs to a large extent. During the 2010s, social conflicts have increased and reports of cases where police brutality and violence have resulted in deaths in connection with demonstrations.

Access to health care, as well as the national state of health in general, has improved in recent years. However, despite the improvements, a majority of the population is still outside the public health system.

The media landscape in Bolivia is very polarized with a privately owned media primarily linked to the opposition, and a state-owned media linked to President Evo Morale’s regime. Journalists who frequently investigate the authorities are often arrested, for example, accused of espionage and slander. In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015, Bolivia is ranked 94 out of 180.

Violence against women, children and adolescents and a lack of sexual and reproductive rights are serious problems in Bolivia. Trafficking in women and girls for sexual exploitation is increasing every year. After several noteworthy murders of women, the government in 2013 passed a new law aimed at combating gender-based violence. UN reports show that half of the country’s women have been subjected to sexual violence. Abortion is only allowed in case of rape or when the woman’s life is in danger and the prevalence of illegal abortions with a fatal outcome for the mother is extensive.

Bolivia’s cities have a relatively large number of street children. These children are extremely vulnerable and are at high risk of being subjected to sexual abuse and human trafficking as well as being exploited for drug smuggling.

Bolivia Head of Government

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