Bolivia president Morales says rivals preparing 'coup'

La Paz (AFP) –


Bolivia's President Evo Morales claimed on Sunday his political rivals were "preparing" a coup d'etat next week as strike action and protests against his controversial reelection continued.

It was the second time in five days that Morales has warned of a coup and comes after Bolivia's electoral court earlier this week declared him the winner of last Sunday's election.

Morales's opponents and independent observers have charged that there were irregularities in the count, prompting demands for a run-off or outright nullification of the results due to fraud.

"A warning from Vila Vila (a rural village) to all the Bolivian people: various sectors of society ... are preparing for a coup d'etat next week," Morales said in a statement.

On Friday, the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) announced Morales as the winner of the vote with 47.1 percent compared to 36.5 percent for his nearest challenger, Carlos Mesa.

That gave Morales the 10-point margin he needed to win outright without the need of a second round run-off.

On Monday, he was leading but not by enough for outright victory until a sudden and unexplained shift in the count, an incident that led the TSE's own vice president to resign.

Foreign powers including the European Union and United States have called for a second round while the Organization of American States (OAS) expressed its "surprise" and "concern" over the sudden count shift.

The Washington-based OAS is due to conduct an audit of the results.

Mesa, a former president who is backed by a collective of centrist and right-wing parties, has rejected the official tally "because it is the result of fraud and a breach of the popular will."

Morales's candidacy was itself a scandal as the constitution limits a president to two successive terms but this was his fourth election victory.

The 60-year-old, the longest serving leader in Latin America and the first indigenous Bolivian president, said he would not negotiate with his rivals.

"Here the Constitution is respected," he said.

After Morales lost a referendum in 2016 in which he tried to remove term limits from the constitution, a year later the Constitutional Court authorized him to stand for a potential fourth term.

The court, like the electoral tribunal, is made up of members appointed by Morales's Movement for Socialism party.