LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivia's top electoral court has accepted President Evo Morales' candidacy for a fourth term in office despite a constitutional ban and referendum against such a re-election.
Electoral Tribunal President Maria Eugenia Choque announced the ruling Tuesday night to journalists, but declined to take questions. The election for a five-year term is set for November 2019.
Bolivians rejected a constitutional amendment to allow more than two consecutive terms in a 2016 referendum, but Morales' party persuaded the constitutional court last year to rule his candidacy legal. It said term limits violate citizens' human right to run for office.
Morales took office in 2005 and presided over an economic boom fueled by high prices for Bolivia's minerals and natural gas, but his popularity has fallen amid corruption scandals and his efforts to run again. He supported a 2009 constitution that allowed only two consecutive terms — though he later argued the restriction took effect only after the new constitution was adopted. He was re-elected in 2009 and 2014.
Supporters of Morales celebrated the decision outside the presidential palace, while critics took to the streets to protest the decision in cities nationwide and called for a general strike Thursday.
A group of women began a hunger strike, and more protesters were expected to arrive at Bolivia's capital over the weekend.
The opposition accused the government of interfering with the court system and said it set a bad precedent for democracy.
"The court just stabbed democracy with this decision," opposition Sen. Arturo Murillo told reporters.