Morena’s proposal to elect judges, magistrates and ministers of the Mexican Judiciary by vote has been raised when Bolivia, the only country in the world that has applied this method since 2011, is discussing how to reverse course. A month ago, the Bolivian Minister of Justice, Iván Lima, declared: “Definitely, a big question that there is is whether a judicial election is necessary.” Before being a minister in the administration of Luis Arce, Lima served as a magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice after running in the first elections to fill this position.
This year, a group of lawyers called Independent Jurists organized a collection of signatures to request a constitutional referendum that, although it was not going to eliminate the exercise of the vote, did intend to change the method of selecting candidates, with the aim of giving it back a character technical. The initiative only achieved 800,000 signatures out of the million and a half it needed, but this failure is attributed to the lack of logistical resources of its promoters rather than to the existence of strong citizen support for the election by vote of the Judiciary.
In the two elections that have taken place so far (2011 and 2017), null and blank votes have been more numerous than those actually delivered to the candidates. On the first occasion, they amounted to almost 60% and on the second, to 66% of the votes cast. This has prevented the main reason why this method was adopted, which was to increase the legitimacy and therefore the independence of the judicial authorities, from being fulfilled. The high annulment of votes was due to the ignorance of the candidates on the part of the electorate and also to the calls of the opposition to boycott the elections and thus block what they considered to be a political “capture” of the courts: “a path with a positive result.” predetermined, the installation of a majority of like-minded citizens or militants of the Movement for Socialism at the top of our judicial system”, read a statement published in 2017 by the alliance of the main opposition parties.
Bolivia does not elect judges by vote, only the 26 main judicial positions, those who direct the Council of the Magistracy, the Plurinational Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Justice and the Agro-environmental Court. Candidates must be 50% women and have an indigenous identity —at least one in each institution. They are selected by the Legislative Assembly through a procedure that changed between 2011 and 2017 to avoid it being purely political. The second time, the law schools intervened and examined the applicants in writing. The innovation was of little use, because some universities boycotted the measure, while those that participated were so numerous that they failed to produce a well-founded questionnaire.
In addition, the parliamentarians, who were in charge of interviewing applicants orally, inflated the scores of some at this stage to compensate for their low results in the written exam. In the end, on both occasions, the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) won the majority of the candidates. For the electoral process that is scheduled for this year (the mandate of the magistrates lasts six years), the division of the MAS into two wings, that of the followers of Arce and that of the unconditional supporters of former President Evo Morales, together with the political polarization which makes it difficult for there to be agreements between these two groups and the center and right-wing oppositions, have complicated things. The Assembly has not been able to approve the electoral call so far.
The greatest recrimination against the electoral method introduced by the 2009 Constitution is for not having achieved a change in the administration of justice, which continues to be questioned by specialized national and international organizations due to its politicization and high corruption.
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