The Irish Times view on the Bolivian political crisis: Time to return to the polling booths

International community must work with interim president to prevent situation deteriorating

Backers of former President Evo Morales throw stones at police on the outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

Backers of former President Evo Morales throw stones at police on the outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

 

A week after ousted president Evo Morales departed for exile, the political crisis in Bolivia remains far from resolved. Nine people died in violent clashes between police and the former president’s supporters near the city of Cochabamba on Friday. It was the deadliest of a series of confrontations that have taken place across the country since the disputed presidential election of October 20th sparked unrest.

The international community must now work with interim president Jeanine Áñez to prevent the situation spinning out of control. The surest way of doing this is to hold new elections as soon as possible.These must be seen to be free and fair.

It was the announcement by the Organisation of American States (OAS) that its auditors had found “clear manipulations” of the voting system that finally led to the fall of Mr Morales after nearly 14 years in power.

Barring a whole party that has the support of over 40 per cent of voters will only torpedo the legitimacy of a new poll and any president it elects

A new electoral commission will now have to replace the discredited one that declared Mr Morales the winner of the October 20th poll. The OAS and peers such as the European Union can help with this process to ensure it has the required legitimacy.

Until a new election can be held Ms Áñez would be best advised to limit her administration’s ambitions to providing the conditions for holding one. It has neither the mandate nor legitimacy to attempt to unravel the legacy of her predecessor. Unfortunately it has already made some moves in this direction. This only risks further inflaming the situation.

Most importantly Ms Áñez should stop dropping hints that Mr Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party could be excluded from the electoral process. Where evidence of their wrongdoing exists MAS leaders should be tried in court. But barring a whole party that can still command the support of over 40 per cent of voters for the alleged crimes of some of its leaders will only torpedo the legitimacy of a new poll and any president it elects.

In turn MAS should urge restraint among its supporters angry at Mr Morales’ fall. Bolivians deserve the right to resolve the crisis in the voting booth.

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