A day after brandishing a giant leather-bound Bible and declaring herself Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Añez set to the task of trying to steady a nation divided by bloody political disputes and create the stability necessary to organize national elections.
The 52-year-old second-vice president of the Senate claimed the presidency on Tuesday following the ousting of socialist leader Evo Morales due to alleged election fraud and resignations from several high-ranking successors that left a power void in the country.
“The Bible has returned to the government palace,” Añez declared as part of an effort to separate herself from Morales, who had banned the Bible from the site after he reformed the constitution and recognized an Andean earth deity instead of the Roman Catholic Church.
“My commitment is to return democracy and tranquility to the country,” she said. “They can never again steal our vote.”
It’s unclear to what extent Bolivians support Añez. Some people celebrated in the streets cheering and waving national flags, while Morales supporters tried storming the Congress building in La Paz shouting, “She must quit!”
Morales, who stepped down Sunday and fled the country in self-exile, said on Twitter from Mexico that Añez’s “self-proclamation” was an affront to constitutional government.
“Bolivia is suffering an assault on the power of the people,” he wrote, adding that Añez was “a right-wing coup leader.”
While the constitution states that Añez didn’t need a congressional vote to assume the presidency, there wasn’t a quorum for a formal debate on accepting Morales’ resignation. Lawmakers from Morales’ Movement for Socialism boycotted the assembly session for Añez’s ascension, calling it “illegal.”
Añez now has 90 days to organize an election, which must be done before Jan. 22, when Morales’ term was meant to end.
She will need to arrange a new electoral court, find a non-partisan staff for the electoral tribunal and get Congress to vote on a new election. And all of it must be done while Morales’ Movement for Socialism party still controls both houses of Congress.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.