The Americas

Defying referendum, Bolivia's Morales agrees to run again

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2016, file photo, Bolivia's President Evo Morales sings his national anthem at a signing ceremony for the expansion of a road that connects the capital with the nearby city of El Alto, in La Paz, Bolivia. Morales accepted on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 to run for a fourth term in office after his ruling party proclaimed him its candidate in 2019 elections, defying the results of a February referendum. (AP Photo/Juan Karita, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2016, file photo, Bolivia's President Evo Morales sings his national anthem at a signing ceremony for the expansion of a road that connects the capital with the nearby city of El Alto, in La Paz, Bolivia. Morales accepted on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 to run for a fourth term in office after his ruling party proclaimed him its candidate in 2019 elections, defying the results of a February referendum. (AP Photo/Juan Karita, File)  (The Associated Press)

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Saturday agreed to run for a fourth term in office after his ruling party proclaimed him its candidate in 2019 elections, defying the results of a February referendum.

His Movement for Socialism party approved his candidacy in a unanimous vote. Later, Morales said "if the people say let's go with Evo, then let's continue defeating the right and continue with our process."

Bolivia's first indigenous president was first elected in 2005, and then re-elected in 2009 and 2014. But he narrowly lost a referendum earlier this year on whether the constitution should be revised to allow him to run again in 2019. His current term expires on January 22, 2020.

Bolivia's constitution only allows two consecutive terms in office. He had sought to raise it to three straight terms. While this next election would be for his fourth, the Constitutional Tribunal has ruled that his first term in office doesn't count since Morales didn't complete the full five-year term. This is because in 2009 the government changed the constitution to make Bolivia a plurinational state instead of a republic.

The ruling party said it was considering four ways to allow Morales to run again, including the possibilities of changing the constitution through the legislative assembly or a signature-collection drive. Other possibilities include having Morales step down six months early or asking the Constitutional Tribunal for another interpretation.

But the opposition said that any Morales re-election bid would be unconstitutional because of the referendum.

"No means no," said opposition leader Jorge Quiroga.