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February 10, 2009

Wikipedia: Bolivian constitutional referendum, 2009

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A constitutional referendum was held in Bolivia on 25 January 2009, postponed from the initially planned dates of 4 May 2008 and then 7 December 2008.[1][2][3][4] Drafted by the Constituent Assembly in 2007, the new constitution was approved in the referendum according to an exit poll by Ipsos Apoyo for La Razón and ATB, a Bolivian television network.[5] Furthermore, it requires early elections to be held on 6 December 2009.[6]



Under President Evo Morales, the Constituent Assembly was elected on 2 July 2006.[7] The referendum should originally have taken place on 6 August 2007,[8] but the Assembly’s validity was extended until 14 December 2007.[9] On 9 December 2007, the Assembly approved the draft;[10] on 14 December, the Assembly officially handed the constitution draft over to the National Congress.[11]

The National Congress adopted the law on 28 February 2008 calling for the referendum on 4 May 2008 under doubtful circumstances; few opposition members were present during the vote.[12] A law was also approved and signed by Morales that permitted only Congress to call departmental referendums, thereby barring the departmental referendums on autonomy that had also been called for 4 May.[13]

On 7 March 2008, the National Electoral Court suspended the referendum, along with the opposition’s regional referendums, saying that there was not enough time for adequate electoral preparations.[4] Nonetheless, the government of Santa Cruz Department went ahead and held its autonomy referendum as planned, ignoring the Court’s interdiction on all referendums. Beni Department and Pando Department held their referendums on 1 June 2008.[14][15]

In a decree on 28 August 2008, Morales declared that the referendum would be held on 7 December 2008.[2]


The new constitution includes the following provisions:[16]

  • It acknowledges Bolivia as a unitary plurinational state.
  • Natural resources are the exclusive dominion of the Bolivian people, administered by the state.
  • The number of members of the Chamber of Deputies is reduced, while the number of senators is increased; the members of the National Congress will be elected by first past the post voting in the future, in a change from the previous mixed member proportional system.
  • A mixed economy will be established; in a separate question within the referendum, voters decided to allow private land possession up to 5,000 hectares.
  • Local autonomies and decentralisation will be reformed.
  • Elections to all public bodies are to be held, and all previous terms will not be considered for term limits; additionally, the President will be allowed to be reelected once, thus allowing Evo Morales two more terms if he decides to pursue this route. Furthermore, if no candidate gains more than 50% of the vote in the presidential election, there will be a second round; up to now, the National Congress decided who would become President in such a case.
  • It introduces the possibility of recall elections for all elected officials.
  • The judiciary is reformed, and judges will be elected in the future and no longer appointed by the National Congress.
  • Sucre will be acknowledged as Bolivia’s capital, but the institutions will remain where they are (executive and legislative in La Paz, judiciary in Sucre). The electoral authorities, which will become a fourth constitutional power, will be situated in Sucre.

Unrest and agreement

Main article: 2008 unrest in Bolivia

Following unrest in Pando, the government and the opposition held talks which resulted in a compromise reached on 20 October 2008. They agreed to hold the referendum on 25 January 2009 and early elections on 6 December 2009; Morales in turn promised he would not run again in 2014 after his likely reelection in 2009, despite the fact that he would be allowed to do so under the new constitution.[17]


As Bolivia’s first indigenous President, Evo Morales enacted the new constitution on 7 February 2009, saying that he had accomplished his mission to “re-found” Bolivia.[18] He spoke in front of thousands of his supporters in the town of El Alto, located near La Paz, claiming that his opponents had “tried ceaselessly” to have him killed.[18] He also said: “Now I want to tell you that they can drag me from the palace. They can kill me. Mission accomplished for the re-founding of the new united Bolivia”.[18] One key reform allows Morales to stand for re-election in December 2009.[18]

Bolivian constitutional referendum, 2009[19][20]
Yes or no Votes Percentage
Yes 2,064,360 61.43%
No 1,296,097 38.57%
Valid votes 3,360,457 95.70%
Invalid or blank votes 151,100 4.31%
Total 3,511,557 100.00%
Voter turnout 90.26%
5,000 or 10,000 hectares Votes Percentage
5,000 hectares 1,956,567 80.65%
10,000 hectares 469,361 19.35%
Valid votes 2,425,928 69.18%
Invalid or blank votes 1,081,678 30.84%
Total 3,507,606 100.00%
Voter turnout 90.16%


  1. ^ “Bolivia sets date for referendum”. BBC News. 29 August 2008. Retrieved on 25 January 2009. 
  2. ^ a b “Bolivia’s Morales calls constitutional referendum”. International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. 29 August 2008. Retrieved on 25 January 2009. 
  3. ^ “Bolivia, opposition agree on referendum, Morales term limit”. Agence France-Presse. The Raw Story. 20 October 2008. Retrieved on 25 January 2009. 
  4. ^ a b “Bolivian court suspends vote on Morales’ proposed constitution”. International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. 8 March 2008. Retrieved on 25 January 2009. 
  5. ^ “Un país dividido aprueba la nueva CPE con el 58,7%” (in Spanish). La Razón (La Paz). 26 January 2009. Retrieved on 26 January 2009. 
  6. ^ “Bolivien: Einigung über Verfassungsreferendum” (in German). Die Presse. Austrian Press Agency. 21 October 2008. Retrieved on 25 January 2009. 
  7. ^ Rebick, Judy (9 September 2006). “Peaceful revolution is taking shape”. ZNet. Toronto Star (Z Communications). Retrieved on 26 January 2009. 
  8. ^ Aguirreand, Mariano and Moreno, Isabel (15 September 2007). “Bolivia: the challenges to state reform”. Transnational Institute. Retrieved on 26 January 2009. 
  9. ^ “Bolivian Congress Extends Constituent Validity”. Prensa Latina. 4 August 2007.{5976EED7-E1D8-462F-8A34-9EFFA38624ED})&language=EN. Retrieved on 26 January 2009. 
  10. ^ “New Bolivia constitution would allow Morales indefinite re-election”. International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. 9 December 2007. Retrieved on 23 January 2009. 
  11. ^ “New Bolivian Constitution to Congress”. Prensa Latina. 4 August 2007. Retrieved on 26 January 2009. 
  12. ^ “Bolivia: A Referendum on Morales’ Constitution”. Stratfor. 29 February 2008. Retrieved on 26 January 2009. 
  13. ^ “Evo Morales promulgates laws to convene referendums and condemns U.S. interference”. Granma. 02-29-2008. Retrieved on 26 January 2009. 
  14. ^ Carrasco, Gloria (2 June 2008). “Two more states in Bolivia vote for autonomy”. CNN. Retrieved on 26 January 2009. 
  15. ^ “Bolivian regions ‘back autonomy'”. BBC News. 2 June 2008. Retrieved on 26 January 2009. 
  16. ^ Crabtree, John (17 December 2007). “Bolivia’s Controversial Constitution and 2008 Referendum”. Retrieved on 26 January 2009. 
  17. ^ “Bolivia, opposition agree on referendum, Morales term limit”. Agence France-Presse. Google News. 20 October 2008. Retrieved on 26 January 2009. 
  18. ^ a b c d “New Bolivia constitution in force”. BBC News. 2009-02-07. Retrieved on 2009-02-09. 
  19. ^ “Referéndum Nacional Constituyente 2009”. National Electoral Court of Bolivia. 2009-01-28. Retrieved on 2009-01-28. 
  20. ^ “Referéndum Nacional Constituyente 2009”. National Electoral Court of Bolivia. 2009-01-28. Retrieved on 2009-01-28. 

External links

  • Text of the constitution voted on in the referendum (Spanish)
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