Bolivia has been governed by democratically elected governments since 1982, when a long string of military coups came to an end. Presidents Hernán Siles Zuazo (1982–85) and Víctor Paz Estenssoro (1985–89) began a tradition of ceding power peacefully which has continued, although two presidents have stepped down in the face of popular protests: Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada in 2003 and Carlos Mesa in 2005. Bolivia's multiparty democracy has seen a wide variety of parties in the presidency and parliament, although the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement, National Democratic Action, and the Revolutionary Left Movement predominated from 1985 to 2005. The current president is Evo Morales, the first indigenous Bolivian to serve as head of state. Morales' Movement for Socialism – Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples party was the first to win an outright presidential majority in four decades, doing so both in 2005 and 2009.
The constitution, drafted in 2006–07 and approved in 2009, provides for balanced executive, legislative, judicial, and electoral powers, as well as several levels of autonomy. The traditionally strong executive branch tends to overshadow the Congress, whose role is generally limited to debating and approving legislation initiated by the executive. The judiciary, consisting of the Supreme Court and departmental and lower courts, has long been riddled with corruption and inefficiency. Through revisions to the constitution in 1994, and subsequent laws, the government has initiated potentially far-reaching reforms in the judicial system as well as increasing decentralizing powers to departments, municipalities, and indigenous territories.
The executive branch is headed by a President and Vice President, and consists of a variable number (currently, 20) of government ministries. The president is elected to a five-year term by popular vote, and governs from the Presidential Palace (popularly called the Burnt Palace, Palacio Quemado) in La Paz. In the case that no candidate receives an absolute majority of the popular vote or more than 40% of the vote with an advantage of more than 10% over the second place finisher, a run-off is to be held among the two candidates most voted.
The Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional (Plurinational Legislative Assembly or National Congress) has two chambers. The Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies) has 130 members elected to five-year terms, seventy from single-member districts (circunscripciones), sixty by proportional representation, and seven by the minority indigenous peoples of seven departments. The Cámara de Senadores (Chamber of Senators) has 36 members (four per department). Members of the Assembly are elected to five-year terms. The body has its headquarters on the Plaza Murillo in La Paz, but also holds honorary sessions elsewhere in Bolivia. The Vice President serves as titular head of the combined Assembly.The Supreme Court Building in the capital of Bolivia, Sucre
The judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Tribunal, the Judiciary Council, Agrarian and Environmental Tribunal, and District (departmental) and lower courts. In October 2011, Bolivia held its first judicial elections to choose members of the national courts by popular vote, a reform brought about by Evo Morales.
The Plurinational Electoral Organ is an independent branch of government which replaced the National Electoral Court in 2010. The branch consists of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the nine Departmental Electoral Tribunals, Electoral Judges, the anonymously selected Juries at Election Tables, and Electoral Notaries. Wilfredo Ovando presides over the seven-member Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Its operations are mandated by the Constitution and regulated by the Electoral Regime Law (Law 026, passed 2010). The Organ's first elections were the country's first judicial election in October 2011, and five municipal special elections held in 2011.Capital File:Sucre Panorama.jpg Panorama of the capital, Sucre
Bolivia has its constitutionally recognized capital in Sucre, while La Paz is the seat of government. La Plata (now Sucre) was proclaimed provisional capital of the newly independent Alto Peru (later, Bolivia) on 1 July 1826. On 12 July 1839, President José Miguel de Velasco proclaimed a law naming the city as the capital of Bolivia, and renaming it in honor of the revolutionary leader Antonio José de Sucre. The Bolivian seat of government moved to La Paz at the turn of the twentieth century, as a consequence of Sucre's relative remoteness from economic activity after the decline of Potosí and its silver industry and of the Liberal Party in the War of 1899.
The 2009 Constitution assigns the role of national capital to Sucre, not referring to La Paz in the text. In addition to being the constitutional capital, the Supreme Court of Bolivia is located in Sucre, making it the judicial capital. Nonetheless, the Palacio Quemado (the Presidential Palace and seat of Bolivian executive power) is located in La Paz, as are the National Congress and Plurinational Electoral Organ. La Paz thus continues to be the seat of government.Law and crime
There are 53 prisons in Bolivia which incarcerate around 8,700 people as of 2010. The prisons are managed by the Penitentiary Regime Directorate (Spanish: Dirección de Régimen Penintenciario). There are 17 prisons in departmental capital cities and 36 provincial prisons.Foreign relations
Despite losing its maritime coast, the so-called Littoral Department, after the War of the Pacific, Bolivia has historically maintained, as a state policy, a maritime claim to Chile; the claim asks for sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean and its maritime space. The issue has also been presented before the Organization of American States; in 1979, the OAS passed the 426 Resolution, which declared that the Bolivian problem is a hemispheric problem. On 4 April 1884, a truce was signed with Chile, whereby Chile gave facilities of access to Bolivian products through Antofagasta, and freed the payment of export rights in the port of Arica. In October 1904, the Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed, and Chile agreed to build a railway between Arica and La Paz, to improve access of Bolivian products to the ports. The Special Economical Zone for Bolivia in Ilo (ZEEBI) is a special economic area of 5 km of maritime coast, and a total extension of 358 hectares, called Mar Bolivia ("Sea Bolivia"), where Bolivia may maintain a free port near Ilo, Peru under its administration and operation for a period of 99 years starting on 1992; once the time has passed, all the construction and territory go back to the Peruvian government. Since 1964, Bolivia has had its own port facilities in the Bolivian Free Port in Rosario, Argentina. This port is located on the Paraná River, which is directly connected to the Atlantic Ocean.Military Two Lockheed T-33s in formation – Bolivian Air Force.
The Bolivian military comprises three branches: Ejército (Army), Naval (Navy) and Fuerza Aérea (Air Force). The legal age for voluntary admissions is 18; however, when the numbers are small the government recruits anyone as young as 14. The tour of duty is generally 12 months. The Bolivian government annually spends $130 million on defense.
The Bolivian Army has around 31,500 men. There are six military regions (regiones militares—RMs) in the army. The Army is organized into ten divisions.
Though it is landlocked Bolivia keeps a navy. The Bolivian Naval Force (Fuerza Naval Boliviana in Spanish) is a naval force about 5,000 strong in 2008.
The Bolivian Air Force ('Fuerza Aérea Boliviana' or 'FAB') has nine air bases, located at La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Puerto Suárez, Tarija, Villamontes, Cobija, Riberalta, and Roboré.