Arce and Morales Are Now Battling for Control of Bolivia’s Courts

Arce and Morales Are Now Battling for Control of Bolivia’s Courts
Supporters of Bolivian President Luis Arce hold signs that read “Lucho you are not alone” during a march in support of the government, in La Paz, Bolivia, June 17, 2024. (AP photo by Juan Karita).

Bolivia is the only country in the world that elects its top judges by popular vote—but the judicial elections that should have taken place in 2023 never did. Whether and when these elections happen is now the crux of a power struggle between President Luis Arce and former President Evo Morales, since it may be the courts that determine which of them is the candidate for the Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS, party in next year’s presidential election.

Though now rivals, the two men were once allies. Arce was Morales’ finance minister until 2019, when Morales ran for an unconstitutional third consecutive term. He won the election, but allegations of fraud—later contested—sparked massive protests. Under pressure from the army, Morales resigned and went into exile. When fresh elections were held in 2020, Morales handpicked Arce as the MAS candidate. The party swept back into power, and Morales subsequently returned to Bolivia, eyeing the 2025 election.

But it soon became clear that Arce planned to run for a second term as well, and their resulting battle to control the MAS, by far the country’s most dominant political party, ahead of the election has reverberated through Bolivia’s state and society since then. It has fueled vitriol in the media, where the two men’s followers have traded accusations of treason, corruption and drug trafficking. It has created a logjam in Congress, with Arce’s government struggling to get legislative approval for multilateral loans it has agreed to, due to foot-dragging by lawmakers loyal to Morales. It has split the Indigenous and workers’ organizations that are the backbone of the MAS’ political base into “Arcista” and “Evista” factions. And it has put the judicial and electoral organs of the state under immense strain.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.