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Court clears path for Bolivia's Morales to run for 3rd term

By Mariano Castillo and Gloria Carrasco, CNN
updated 2:33 PM EDT, Tue April 30, 2013
President Evo Morales can run for another term, Bolivia's constitutional court ruled Monday.
President Evo Morales can run for another term, Bolivia's constitutional court ruled Monday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A Bolivian court clears the way for Evo Morales to run again for the presidency
  • It would be his third candidacy, but only the second one under the new constitution
  • The opposition says Morales is trying to consolidate power
  • The next elections are in 2014

La Paz, Bolivia (CNN) -- Bolivia's constitutional court voted unanimously to allow President Evo Morales to run for a third term in office, a decision that the opposition decried as abusive.

Bolivia's constitution limits presidential terms to two five-year periods, but Morales was elected under a previous constitution with different rules.

Morales' current term may be his second, but it is his first under the new constitution and therefore he is allowed to run for re-election, the court ruled Monday night.

It's a maneuver that has been used in the past by Latin American presidents on both the left and right to extend their time in office while adhering to the word of the constitution.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ushered in a new constitution and also successfully argued that his first term under the old one did not count against his re-election. In the 1990s, Peru's Alberto Fujimori stretched his time in office in the same manner.

Morales' quest for a third term faced criticism from the opposition, which saw the move as a manipulation of the system.

"This court has proved that it is working outside of the constitution and the law," opposition leader Samuel Doria Medina of the National Unity party said. He accused the government of having stacked the judiciary in favor of Morales.

When the new constitution was passed by referendum in 2009, the opposition was already accusing Morales of having the 2014 election on his mind. At the time, there were reports that the president had agreed not run again in 2014 in exchange for the constitution being passed.

Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, won his first election with a campaign that promised a government focused on the needs of the country's poor. But as an ally of the late Hugo Chavez, he has been accused of using the system to concentrate power.

CNN's Mariano Castillo contributed and wrote the story from Atlanta. Journalist Gloria Carrasco reported from La Paz.

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