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Article Bolivia: Special Elections Called After President Morales Resigns

(Dec. 13, 2019) On November 22, 2019, interim Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez called for general elections to elect a new president and vice president and new leaders of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Áñez, a member of the Bolivian Senate, had proclaimed herself interim president following the resignation of President Evo Morales, his vice president, and the presidents of both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

Article 169 of the Bolivian Constitution provides for a line of succession such that, in case of an impediment or a definitive absence of the president, he or she shall be replaced by the vice president, followed by the president of the Senate and the president of the Chamber of Deputies.

After Morales resigned, the vice president and the presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies also resigned. Therefore, in absence of all the authorities who were supposed to succeed the president after his resignation, deputy Senate leader Áñez became president of the Senate, which put her next in line for the presidency under the constitution.

Background to the Political Crisis

Morales was first elected president of Bolivia in 2005. In January 2009 Bolivians approved a new constitution in a referendum and, in December of that year, Morales was reelected in an early presidential election. In April 2013, the Constitutional Court ruled that Morales could run for the presidency again in the 2014 election despite the provision in article 168 of the 2009 constitution limiting presidents to two consecutive terms, arguing that Morales’ first term should not count because it took place before the 2009 constitution entered into force. In 2015 Morales called for a referendum in an effort to nullify the two-term-limit provision of the constitution and allow him to run for a third term. In November of that year, Bolivia’s Congress approved of holding the referendum by the necessary two-thirds majority vote.

Suprisingly, when the referendum was held on February 20, 2016, 51.3% of Bolivian voters rejected extending Morales’ tenure. Subsequently, in November 2017, the politically sympathetic Constitutional Court issued a controversial decision in favor of the president’s reelection, declaring the referendum invalid on the grounds that depriving Morales of another run would violate his political right to run for president. The Court maintained that Morales’ political rights, as recognized by Bolivia in the American Convention on Human Rights, take precedence over the term limits established in the constitution.

In spite of major protests throughout the country, a presidential election was held on October 20, 2019. But midway through the election process, on October 20, electoral authorities stopped issuing incremental updates to the vote count when, with 83% of the vote counted, the initial results indicated a runoff election between Morales and opposition candidate Carlos Mesa might be necessary, arousing suspicion in voters. The resumption of the updates the following day, however, and the announcement that with 95% of the vote counted Morales had apparently won by a narrow margin triggered concerns of electoral fraud. Yet even after the Organization of American States (OAS) reported a gross manipulation of election computer systems, the election board declared Morales the winner.

In the face of the serious OAS report of electoral fraud, Morales announced a call for new elections and promised to reform the electoral commission. However, when crucial political allies abandoned him, and ministers and lawmakers whose homes and families had become the targets of rioters and kidnappers resigned, the head of the armed forces called for the president to resign, which he did, leaving for Mexico where he was granted political asylum.

The Current Legal Situation

On November 22 and 23, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies approved a draft law providing for the holding of general elections for president, vice president, and members of the national assembly within 120 days after the Supreme Electoral Tribune issues the call for the elections. The law was the result of a political consensus reached by all the political factions, on the condition that Evo Morales and his vice president may not run for office in the elections. The law annuls the elections of October 20, 2019, and enables the appointment of new election authorities who will set up the electoral calendar to elect authorities for the 2020–2025 constitutional period. In addition, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal must decide whether to extend the term of interim President Áñez.

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Rodriguez-Ferrand, Graciela. Bolivia: Special Elections Called After President Morales Resigns. 2019. Web Page.

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Rodriguez-Ferrand, G. (2019) Bolivia: Special Elections Called After President Morales Resigns. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

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Rodriguez-Ferrand, Graciela. Bolivia: Special Elections Called After President Morales Resigns. 2019. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.