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Evo gets a mandate

Get your dirty minds out of the gutter, wingnuts. It's not a MAN DATE.

This is what it's really about:

Bolivian President Evo Morales' leftist party appears to have won a narrow majority in a new assembly picked to rewrite the constitution.

Early unofficial results suggested he won 133 out of 255 seats - short of the two-thirds majority needed for full control - but Mr Morales was upbeat.

"This support ... gives us the strength to go on changing," he said.

[...]

The assembly will meet in August and spend between six months and one year drawing up a new draft constitution that will then be voted on by the people.

If President Morales' party wins a majority, he will continue with the reforms he has been implementing since he took office.

They include plans to give a greater voice to the majority indigenous population, tighter state control of the economy and more transparency in what has traditionally been a corrupt political system.

For those who don't get what all the fuss is about, Evo just got a popular mandate--not an absolute majority, but enough--to rewrite the Bolivian constitution along the same lines he campaigned on for the presidency last year.

This is an echo of what Hugo Chavez also did when he was elected in 1999 by the Venezuelan people--also on a platform including a promise to convene a democratically elected assembly to rewrite the constitution. He followed up on his promise, and the populace turned out despite heavy rains to ratify the new constitution by a solid majority. Rotten weather couldn't dampen the spirits of the jubilant Chavistas, who danced arm-in-arm through the streets chanting, "It's dead, it's dead, the Moribund One is dead!"

It sounds like shades of The Wizard of Oz, but what they were actually referring to was the 1961 constitution, which Chavez pronounced "moribund" when he swore on it during his taking of office. What he swore, in his unorthodox and unforgettable way, was to give the people "a true Magna Carta of their dreams". His supporters seized on the adjective, though, and used it from then on to refer to the dying old constitution. It became a watchword in the memorable chants the Chavistas so love to use in their popular demonstrations.

Let's see if Evo can mobilize similar sentiments. He's not as famous for wit and fiery rhetoric as his Venezuelan pal, but he's certainly a popular leader in his own right. He led the cocaleros, of which he was himself one, in a massive resistance to the US's anti-coca program. People power has accomplished everything of value that's happened in South America of late. Like Hugo, Evo's got that much in his favor already.

PS: Check out this wonderful interview at Venezuelanalysis. If you doubt Evo's got it in him, this should lay THAT to rest!