Bolivia's beaming president, as pictured (right) on Wednesday's front page of Tarija-based daily El País, has good reason to smile: He's just been cleared to seek reelection indefinitely.
Evo Morales, 58, was first elected in 2005 following a period of upheaval that saw four presidents come and go in less than five years. Once in power, he oversaw the drafting of a new constitution (2006) and survived a recall referendum (2008) before being reelected in 2009, this time to a five-year term. The popular leftist won a third term in 2014 (after initially promising he wouldn't run). In October 2015, he officially became the landlocked country's longest serving president.
Term limit laws were supposed to bring an end to the streak when Morales's current term expires in 2019. But in an effort to sidestep the rules, the president and his allies organized a referendum, held last year. Morales narrowly lost, but in December 2016, his party — the Movement for Socialism (MAS)— nominated him as its 2019 candidate regardless, promising to challenge the referendum result in the courts.
On Tuesday, the country's Constitutional Court decided unanimously to accept arguments, put forth by MAS, that Morales lost the reelection referendum because of an illegal smear campaign. The Court thus annulled the referendum result, "allowing indefinite reelection for Evo and Álvaro García Linera," as the headline from El País explains. García Linera is Bolivia's vice president.
Opposition groups are calling the Constitutional Court ruling an attack on democracy, and demand that last year's referendum result be respected.