With the United Kingdom general elections around the corner, the current political climate is focused on identifying and analysing the propositions of the different candidates and their respective parties. As with most elections, the political race for office can in many cases be open to negative campaigning, and speculations about policies put forward by the different political groups. Here, Alex Conesa-Pietscheck asks if it is possible to compare and contrast leadership in the United Kingdom and Bolivia. At first glance, it might not seem like a proper comparison, given the different socioeconomic and cultural characteristics of each country. However, Evo Morales can teach some valuable lessons to Western leaders primarily in the form of humility and inclusion.
By being one of the oldest established democracies, the United Kingdom could be considered a country that is used to the democratic process and the standard approach to electing or reelecting a party leader. It seems, however, that the felling surrounding the 2015 elections is one – as Jeremy Paxman and Russell Brand discussed last year – of disenchantment and disillusionment with the prevailing political order.
A prominent explanation for such feeling is that people no longer feel connected with the parties and the policies they advocate. In other words, individuals no longer feel like they are being truly represented. The reason for this ranges from the preference contemporary political parties have for market-oriented policies, or simply by how leaders are viewed as being guided by a pursuit of power.
The U.K. has had a history of successful economic endeavours, while Bolivia has suffered slow economic growth due to colonialism and failed political leaderships. Moreover, the UK contains a strong parliamentary system, while Bolivia functions under a presidential arrangement. The differences between the countries are evident, but the lessons to be learned from the indigenous leader of Bolivia are many.
Evo Morales did not graduate from high school. He didn’t attend university either. Nonetheless, he’s been involved in politics for a prolonged period of time, forming or being part of social movements which advocated for the respect of the vast indigenous identities in the country, as well as the protection of the natural resources, and the now state-protected coca leaf.
Morales is a man that comes from humble beginnings. He has proven to his country and also to the international arena that you don’t have to attend a world-class university or have excellent qualifications in order to lead a nation. This is evidently very different from the UK case, where it seems that the norm is to have political leaders that attended prestigious universities, Oxbridge in particular, or private educational schools such as Eton and Harrow. Mr. Morales has always been proud of his origins and ethnic descent, which has made him a popular contemporary politician in a country that was previously ruled by dictators or leaders that didn’t form part of the excluded or unrepresented social groups.
The politicians in the United Kingdom could learn a valuable lesson from Morales in the form of humility. He has proven that credentials are not the most important characteristic of a leader, or that the place where you studied doesn’t inherently make you someone suitable to hold political power. Sometimes change for a country can come in a rather drastic fashion, such as electing a leader that doesn’t fit in the idea of a perfect politician, but rather provides the majority of people someone to identify with. He has provided the ordinary citizen something that seems to be missing in the United Kingdom: hope that politicians can improve standards of living.
Since starting his mandate in 2006, Morales has made lowering of the levels of poverty, as well as equally distributing resources and rights to the populations of the country, a national priority. He has done so by nationalising many industries, as well as placing emphasis on empowering groups of the country that were, to a significant extent, disregarded by the previous political orders.
It seems right that a country as multi-cultural and diverse as the United Kingdom should strongly advocate for policies of social inclusion. The political parties running for power in the coming elections have different policies regarding cultural diversity. However, it seems that a strong sense of inclusion is missing. By this I don’t mean including only the ethnic and cultural minorities that constitute society, but also the lower socioeconomic strata of a country, that is, the poorest sections of the economic pyramid.
Clearly, politicians do take this into consideration and they provide the general public with their ideas of how to tackle poverty and raise the standards of living of the people surviving under those conditions. However, it appears that the current political feeling of a big portion of the population shows that they are not doing enough.
It seems that Morales is concerned on protecting the resources that are vital for the development of the nation, as well as providing a voice to the collectivities of individuals that were previously disregarded. By doing so, he has created a form of politics of inclusion which can be an important factor for social cohesion.
Evidently, the United Kingdom cannot implement the same policies as Bolivia given that both countries are inherently different. However, British politicians can learn that in order to gain more traction and supporters, placing more emphasis on empowering and protecting the most vulnerable sections of a country can be beneficial for their political ventures as well as the development of the country.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.
Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.