Q+A-Bolivia's first election to choose top judges

Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:09pm GMT
 

LA PAZ Oct 13 (Reuters) - Bolivian voters will directly elect the country's 28 national judges for the first time on Sunday in a vote that could prove decisive for President Evo Morales' political future.

The judicial election is the latest in a series of reforms aimed at giving more political power to the country's poor indigenous majority. Morales, the first president of Indian descent, was elected on pledges to reverse five centuries of domination by a European-descended elite.

Here are some questions and answers about the election.

WHY IS THE ELECTION BEING HELD?

The direct election of judges is one of the reforms included in the new constitution that Morales' and his allies pushed through in 2009. Morales was elected on pledges to "refound" Bolivia by enacting a sweeping reform of the country's legislative and judicial system -- long seen by critics as favoring the interests of a wealthy, white elite.

Until now, judges at the country's four high courts have been chosen by Congress.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR MORALES?

Morales has been shaken by weeks of protests against his government's plans to build a $420 million highway through the Amazon and Sunday's election is being seen as a referendum on his presidency.

The president's political foes have sought to undermine the unprecedented election by urging voters to spoil their ballots. That means a high voter turnout and few blank votes will be crucial for Morales as he tries to regain his political footing after the anti-road protests, which were led by indigenous activists.   Continued...

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