December 17, 2019 / 6:01 PM / a month ago

Bolivia's Morales looks to engineer election win from afar, find successor

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales looks on during a news conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 17, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Bolivia’s former President Evo Morales defended his right to be involved in politics on Tuesday and said he would campaign to help his socialist party win new elections after he resigned under pressure in November and sought refuge abroad.

The leftist leader, in his first press conference since arriving in Argentina last week, said he planned to remain active in his Movement to Socialism (MAS) party as it mulls several names for candidacy in the next elections.

“I am not a candidate. I will not be a candidate as things are, but I have the right to do politics,” Morales said. “I am convinced that we will win the upcoming elections again.”

Morales named Luis Arce Catacora, his former economy minister, and Andronico Rodriguez, a key coca farmer union boss, as potential MAS presidential candidates.

A date for the next elections has not been set.

Morales, who had been in power for nearly 14 years, resigned and left Bolivia in mid-November after an Organization of American States audit found serious irregularities in the way votes were counted in the Oct. 20 election.

Morales resigned under pressure from the armed forces and maintains that he was ousted in a right-wing “coup.” He left for Mexico where he spent about a month before flying to Buenos Aires.

After interim Bolivian President Jeanine Anez took over, lawmakers passed a bill that bars candidates who have already served two presidential terms, eliminating Morales from the race.

Morales arrived in Argentina two days after the inauguration of President Alberto Fernandez who had said before taking office that Morales would be welcome in the country.

Reporting by Marina Lammertyn; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Richard Chang

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