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AP Explains: Bolivia aims for a new vote _ without Morales

Bolivia is struggling to stabilize after weeks of anti-government protests and violence in which at least 30 people have been killed. President Evo Morales resigned on Nov. 10 after an election that the opposition said was rigged. But the interim government that replaced him faces its own challenges as it tries to reach an accord with Morales’ powerful political party on new elections. The days ahead are critical for the Andean nation of 11 million people.

WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD FOR BOLIVIA?

The constitution requires a new election within 90 days after an interim president takes office and interim leader Jeanine Áñez has sent a bill on holding new elections to the congress. Morales’ party, the Movement Toward Socialism, dominates the congress and appears to be on board with the proposal.

Supporters of former President Evo Morales clash with police in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP PhotoJuan Karita)

IS THERE A ROLE FOR MORALES IN BOLIVIAN POLITICS?

For now, that seems unlikely. Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, ruled for 14 years and remains beloved by many Bolivians for lifting many out of poverty. However, protesters accused him of illegally clinging to power and his resignation came after the Bolivian military urged him to quit. From asylum in Mexico, he has harshly criticized the interim government and called his ousting a coup. For its part, that government says Morales would be prosecuted for electoral fraud if he returns to Bolivia and says he has stirred up violent demonstrations with incendiary rhetoric.

WHAT ABOUT MORALES’ POLITICAL PARTY?

A backer of former President Evo Morales scuffles with police in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko)

The Movement Toward Socialism remains a powerful force. Most of Bolivia’s mayors, governors and biggest unions are affiliated with the party. There are also signs that the party is trying to reinvent itself following the abrupt exit of Morales. New indigenous leaders in the Movement Toward Socialism are talking about change, a sign that they are open to the idea of contesting elections without Morales as a candidate. Still, one party lawmaker has suggested Morales is entitled to be a candidate in any new elections. The different viewpoints reflect divisions within a party that has suddenly lost its leader.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

Bolivia’s violence has accelerated in the last week with the shooting deaths of protesters who were confronting security forces. On Nov. 15, nine pro-Morales coca growers were killed in the town of Sacaba while trying to break through a security cordon. Then, on Tuesday, eight people were killed when security forces cleared the blockade of a fuel plant by anti-government protesters in the city of El Alto, near La Paz. Protesters want the interim president, Áñez, to resign and for the security forces to be held accountable for alleged violations. It could become increasingly challenging to reach a political accord if the bloodshed continues.

A supporter of former President Evo Morales is silhouetted against a wall of tear gas as he runs from advancing security forces during clashes in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 15, 2019. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko)

IS THERE MORE TO BOLIVIA’S CRISIS?

Bolivia’s violence and political chaos is exposing old racial, ethnic and geographic divides that many thought had been overcome under Morales, whose ascent to power led the way to new rights and benefits for the nation's indigenous population. Analysts describe the movement to oust Morales as an urban middle-class revolt. Now the divide between a wealthier, more European-descended lowland east and a more indigenous, poorer, highland west is once again exposed. Some Bolivians worry the country could return to politically unstable pre-Morales times. By one count, Bolivia has had more than 190 coup attempts and revolutions since its 1825 independence in a repetitive cycle of conflict between political elites in urban areas and the traditionally disenfranchised in rural regions.

A female supporter of Bolivian President Evo Morales shows her support during a march in La Paz, Bolivia, Oct. 23, 2019. (AP PhotoJuan Karita)

Movement Toward Socialism, MAS, legislators Juana Quispe, front row, from left; Bridge Quiroga, Concepcion Ortiz and Ayda Villarroel, meet with The Associated Press in the Chamber of Deputies, in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. MAS lawmakers loyal to former President Evo Morales have majority in congress. Bolivia is wracked by civil unrest following the resignation of Morales, who fled to Mexico, over a disputed election. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko)

Women sit on at traffic barrier, one of many used by supporters of former President Evo Morales to block a highway in El Alto, Bolivia, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko)

A woman cries in front of soldiers guarding a street during a march of supporters of former President Evo Morales in downtown La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 15, 2019. Morales resigned on Nov. 10 at military prompting following massive nationwide protests over suspected vote-rigging in an election in which he claimed to have won a fourth term in office. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko)

A supporter of former President Evo Morales holds a Bolivian flag during clashes with police in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko)

Bolivia's President Evo Morales speaks during a press conference at the military base in El Alto, in the outskirts of La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 10, 2019. Hours later Morales announced his resignation under mounting pressure from the military and the public after his re-election victory triggered weeks of fraud allegations and deadly protests. (AP PhotoJuan Karita)

The opposition senator who has claimed Bolivia's presidency Jeanine Anez arrives the government palace in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP PhotoJuan Karita)

Supporters of former President Evo Morales stand next to soldiers guarding the road leading to the state-own Senkata fuel plant, in El Alto, on the outskirts of La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko)

A coca leaf producer kneels holding a bible with his arms outspread asking police to open the way so a march by backers of former President Evo Morales may continue to Cochabamba, Bolivia, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP PhotoJuan Karita)

An Army helicopter flies over the road leading to the state-own Senkata filling gas plant in El Alto, on the outskirts of La Paz, Bolivia, as supporters of former President Evo Morales set up barricades, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko)

Police detain supporters of former President Evo Morales during clashes in Sacaba, Bolivia, Nov. 15, 2019. (AP PhotoDico Solis)

Police fire tear gas at demonstrators during a protest against the reelection of President Evo Morales, in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP PhotoJuan Karita)

Anti-government protesters burn a picture President Evo Morales during a march demanding a second round presidential election, in La Paz, Bolivia, Oct. 26, 2019. (AP PhotoJuan Karita)

A mourner places a hand on the shoulder of Devi Posto killed during clashes between security forces and supporters of former President Evo Morales, during a vigil at the San Francisco de Asis church in El Alto, on the outskirts of La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 20, 2019. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko)

Virginia Ticona mourns during the funeral of her son, Antonio Quispe in El Alto, outskirts of La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 20, 2019. Quispe was killed on Tuesday when security forces escorting gasoline tankers from a fuel plant clashed with supporters of former President Evo Morales that had been blockading it for five days. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko)

Gloria Quispe mourns next to the body of her brother Antonio, killed during clashes between security forces and supporters of former President Evo Morales, at the San Francisco de Asis church in El Alto, outskirts of La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 20, 2019. Police and soldiers on Tuesday escorted gasoline tankers from a major fuel plant that had been blockaded for five days by Morales' backers and at least three people were reported killed while the operation was underway. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko)