Politicians approve new election for post-Morales Bolivia

By Paola Flores, Associated Press

Bolivian politicians have unanimously approved a measure calling for new presidential elections that would exclude former leader Evo Morales.

It was a key step toward pacifying a nation rocked by unrest since an October 20 poll marred by reported irregularities.

The bill was first approved by the Senate and then later in the day by the lower house, both of which are dominated by Mr Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism party and now must be promulgated by interim President Jeanine Anez.

The measure forbids re-election of anyone who has served the last two terms consecutively as president, effectively ruling out Mr Morales, whose refusal to accept such term limits was a key issue in protests against him.

Bolivia’s interim President Jeanine Anez (Juan Karita/AP)

The measure did not set a date for the vote.

Mr Morales’ claim of victory and a fourth term in the election prompted massive protests that led him to resign on November 10 at the army’s suggestion.

An audit by a team from the Organisation of American States found widespread irregularities in that election.

After Mr Morales left for asylum in Mexico, his own supporters took to the streets in protest.

Former Bolivian president Evo Morales (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Officials say at least 32 people have died in demonstrations since the presidential election, which would be annulled by Saturday’s vote.

An agreement on elections between Mr Morales’ party and the interim government helped pacify the country.

Street blockades were lifted, allowing supplies to reach marketplaces in areas that had been short of groceries and petrol.

Senator Oscar Ortiz said the bill calls for updating the electoral rolls, naming a completely new electoral tribunal to oversee the vote.

“We have to generate confidence in the population,” said Senator Omar Aguilar, from Mr Morales’ party.

Also Saturday, Ms Anez rejected a bill presented by Mr Morales’ party that would have prevented the ousted president from being tried for alleged crimes committed during the exercise of his functions to date.

“With respect to approving this bill in favour of those who have committed crimes and who now seek impunity, my decision is clear and firm: I will not promulgate this law,” Ms Anez said.

The bill remains paralysed, politicians said.

Women chat in El Alto, Bolivia (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

On Friday, the interim government accused Mr Morales of terrorism and sedition for purportedly organising road blockades intended to prevent food from reaching some cities.

Acting Interior Minister Arturo Murillo said the complaint relates to a video in which Mr Morales is supposedly heard in a phone call coordinating the blockades from Mexico.

Mr Murillo said Bolivia’s government is seeking a maximum penalty, which is between 15 and 20 years in prison.

Mr Morales has said the video is a “montage” by his opponents.