Washington, D.C. – Evo Morales’ resignation of the presidency on Sunday, November 10, culminated three dramatic weeks of turmoil in Bolivia, and opened the way for a peaceful and constitutional resolution to the electoral crisis roiling the country. Under the Bolivian constitution, in the event of the president and vice president resigning, new elections are to be held within 90 days. In the coming hours and days, as tensions remain high amidst the extreme uncertainty, extraordinary care must be taken to ensure this constitutional resolution remains under the purview of civilians—the military should have no political role in a democratic society.
Morales’ resignation came after weeks of protests and allegations of electoral fraud surrounding Bolivia’s October 20 elections. In an effort to address the political turbulence, the Morales government had invited the Organization of American States (OAS) to perform an audit of the vote, and agreed that the results of that audit would be binding. The audit’s preliminary conclusions, announced Sunday morning, invalidated the October 20 vote and required a new election held under the auspices of a renovated electoral authority. By Sunday afternoon, Evo Morales had announced his resignation.
Following weeks of deep mutual distrust, escalating confrontation and acts of violence, Bolivians now have the opportunity to rebuild confidence in their electoral process and restore a measure of social peace and coexistence.
Taking that path will require the good will and restraint of all Bolivians, political leaders choosing to rise above the interests of their own factions to act in the best interests of the country as a whole, and the continued accompaniment and monitoring on the part of the international community.
Bolivia must now organize fresh elections with new electoral authorities in place, along with ongoing international observation. In order to avoid exacerbating conflict in a severely polarized country, Bolivia’s political and social leaders must urge calm and refrain from any rhetoric that fuels tensions and stokes animosities. All energies should be focused on how to best ensure the conformation of an electoral authority and the convening of a new vote that provide all Bolivians with the confidence that they can freely and fairly choose their own leaders, as is their fundamental right.