By Mo Juenger | Staff Writer
Former Bolivian President Evo Morales stepped down on Sunday after growing protests debating the integrity of his election.
Controversy first sparked after he successfully overrode a constitutional stipulation limiting each president to two five-year terms, ignoring a negative vote from a referendum. He had previously served three terms before running again in the October election.
Protests amplified after the Organization of American States (OAS) audited election results and reported irregularities relating to alleged forced signatures, phantom voters and compromised data. Morales received a number of votes close to the number necessary to avoid a runoff election, concerning protesters and oppositional leaders.
The police and military forces, previously closely aligned with Morales’ administration, publicly asked him to resign Sunday night.
Shortly after stating his support for a vote recount, Morales resigned alongside his vice president Álvaro García Linera. Several congress members have followed, leaving a power vacuum and the future of the Bolivian presidential successor unclear. Politician and lawyer Jeanine Añez has announced that she is next in line to assume the presidency, but she has not yet been confirmed.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have commended the OAS for its dedication to electoral security, and the U.S. State Department has declared the situation not to be a coup. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro previously referred to the event as a violent coup.
Professor of Spanish and Latin American studies Dr. Irene Hodgson expressed a similarly mixed sentiment.
“The idea that the military and the police asked him to step down would suggest a coup. But at the same time, I have questions about his legitimacy,” Hodsgon said. “Democracy does mean that you alternate in power… He’s been in power for 13 years, but at the same time, the poor made a lot of progress under him.” Morales tweeted Sunday night that Bolivian police were illegally trying to arrest him, and was currently seeking asylum in Mexico.
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