Bolivia’s electoral body said former president Evo Morales was ineligible to run for a Senate position in a May election re-run of a voided vote late last year that sparked a political crisis and led to the leftist leader’s resignation.
Salvador Romero, the head of the country’s electoral tribunal, told reporters that Morales did not meet the requirements to be a Senate candidate for his Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, which is currently leading in the polls.
Morales stepped down in November after the disputed October 20 election sparked widespread protests and led to allies and security forces pulling their support for the long-standing leader who led the country for almost 14 years. The election results were annulled after an audit by the Organisation of American States found evidence of vote-rigging in Morales’s favour.
The former president, now in exile in Argentina, is orchestrating his party’s election campaign ahead of the May 3 vote, with his former economy minister Luis Arce at the top of the ticket.
Morales had been eyeing a Senate role.
The landlocked South American nation, which is grappling with economic slowdown, was plunged into political crisis last year over allegations of electoral fraud after Morales won an election handing him a fourth term in defiance of term limits.
Morales’ party is now facing a fragmented opposition, including current caretaker President Jeanine Anez, who took over in a political vacuum after his resignation last year.
The supreme electoral court (TSE), however, added that his Movement for Socialism (MAS) party’s presidential candidate, Luis Arce, met the qualification requirements.
Romero said the block on Morales’ candidacy was down to his not being a permanent resident in Bolivia, adding that the decision could not be appealed.
Morales responded in a post on Twitter saying that he met the necessary requirements for a Senate position and that the block against his candidacy was aimed at weakening his MAS party.
“The decision by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal is a blow to democracy,” he wrote. Morales added that members of the court “know that I meet the requirements to be a candidate. The ultimate goal is to prohibit MAS.”
Arce leads the pack of presidential contenders with 31.6% of the vote among those who plan to participate in the election, according to a recent survey by pollster Ciesmori.
He is followed by centrist candidate Carlos Mesa with 17.1% and Bolivia’s conservative interim leader Jeanine Anez who has 16.5%.
Bolivia’s general election campaign officially began on February 3
Earlier this week, Luis Fernando Camacho, a right-wing civic leader from Santa Cruz who became a symbol of opposition to Morales in the run-up to his ouster, called for unity among presidential candidates to prevent Morales’ return to power.
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