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Bolivia judiciary dispute escalates into legislative brawl

[JURIST] A fistfight broke out between lawmakers in the Bolivian legislature [official site, in Spanish] Wednesday as opposition leaders tried to prevent lawmakers loyal to Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] from bringing charges against four Constitutional Tribunal justices for overstepping their authority. The dispute, the latest in a series of disagreements between Morales' Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) [party website, in Spanish; Wikipedia backgrounder] and opposition lawmakers, stems from Morales' appointment of four magistrates during a congressional recess in December. Opposition leaders appealed to the Bolivian Constitutional Tribunal [official website, in Spanish], which then suspended the judges, ruling that they could only serve 90 days unless Congress confirmed their appointment. Congress voted to grant approval last month, but Morales has urged that charges be filed against the Constitutional Tribunal justices who issued the suspensions in May. Lawmakers voted to press charges against four justices, all but suspending them. AP has more.

Last year, Morales' leftist party and opposition leaders clashed [JURIST report] over constitutional reform, with Morales backing a full rewrite of the country's constitution. Morales, the country's first indigenous president, was elected [JURIST report] in 2005 after weeks of protests from leftists demanding constitutional changes, and has promised widespread social change. The constitutional assembly was expected to introduce the new constitution earlier this month, but was granted a extension until December after being unable to meet the August deadline.

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