Bolivia’s interim president faces challenge of organizing elections amid protests

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivia’s new interim president, until now a second-tier lawmaker, faces the challenge of stabilizing the nation and organizing national elections within three months at a time of bloody political disputes that pushed the nation’s first indigenous leader to fly off to self-exile in Mexico after 14 years in power.

Some people took to the streets cheering and waving national flags Tuesday night when Jeanine Anez, who had been second-vice-president of the Senate, claimed the presidency after higher ranking successors to the had post resigned.

But furious supporters of the ousted Evo Morales responded by trying to force their way to the Congress building in La Paz yelling, “She must quit!”

The constitution gives Anez 90 days to organize an election, and her accession was an example of the problems she’ll face.

Morales’ backers, who hold a two-thirds majority in Congress, boycotted the session she had called to formalize her accession, preventing a quorum. Frustrated in that effort, she took power in any case, with no one to swear her in, noting the constitution did not specifically require congressional approval.

“My commitment is to return democracy and tranquility to the country,” she said. “They can never again steal our vote.”

Morales’ backers called her rise illegitimate, but Bolivia’s constitutional court issued a statement late Tuesday laying out the legal justification for Anez taking the presidency, without mentioning her by name.

While the constitution clearly states that Anez didn’t need a congressional vote to assume the presidency, “The next two months are going to be extraordinarily difficult for President Anez,” said Eduardo Gamarra, a Bolivian political scientist at Florida International University.

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