Morales resigned under pressure on Sunday after weeks of protests and violence following an October 20 election that awarded an outright win to him but was tarnished by widespread allegations of fraud. An Organization of American States (OAS) audit of the vote found widespread irregularities.
Morales then fled to Mexico after being granted asylum. He told the Associated Press on Thursday that he could say he was still the president because his resignation was never accepted by Congress.
Earlier this week, Jeanine Anez declared herself interim president, saying every person in the line of succession ahead of her – all of them Morales backers – had resigned. The country’s Constitutional Court issued a statement backing her claim that she didn’t need to be confirmed by Congress, a body controlled by Morales’s Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party.
On Friday, Anez rejected Morales’s claim that he resigned and left the country because of military pressure and threats of violence against his close collaborators.
“Evo Morales went on his own. Nobody kicked him out,” she said at a news conference.
She said he is free to return, but has to “answer to justice for electoral fraud”.
“Justice has to do its work without political pressures,” she added.
On Thursday, Anez said she wants to mend bridges with MAS, and hold new elections. But she said that Morales would not be welcome as a candidate.
Some politicians from Morales’s party and legislators from Anez’s interim government had indicated that they had struck a political agreement to bring peace to the country and pave the road to a new vote in 90 days. But Anez said on Friday that the initial deal had failed, without giving details.
Morales told Reuters on Friday that he did not know who would be the MAS candidate. It would be for the people to decide, he said.
Much of the opposition to Morales sprang from his refusal to accept a referendum that would have forbidden him from running for a fourth term.
Although some supporters became disenchanted by his insistence on holding on to power, Morales remains popular, especially among indigenous communities.
Since his resignation, Morales’s supporters have marched in the streets, setting up blockades that forced closure of schools and caused petrol shortages in the capital.
“Evo: Friend, the people are with you!” shouted largely indigenous protesters in the town of Sacaba on Friday.
Many protesters waved the national flag and the multicolour “Wiphala” flag that represents indigenous peoples. They said they did not accept Anez as interim president.