[JURIST] Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] on Thursday appointed [press release, in Spanish] 18 judges ahead of the country's judicial elections, calling the move "the beginning of the decolonization of the judiciary." The appointees will fill five vacancies on the country's Supreme Court, five on the Constitutional Court, and three on the Judiciary Council, while five others were named alternates. All will serve until judicial elections are held on December 5. Though roughly 20 of 26 high-level judicial posts were unoccupied prior to the announcement, the move has drawn criticism [BBC report] from Morales's opponents who fear it jeopardizes the judiciary's independence. The Bolivian National Congress [official website, in Spanish] passed legislation [Reuters report] last week authorizing Morales to appoint judicial officials on an interim basis until the election.
Popular election of high-level judicial officials is required under the country's new constitution, which went into effect last February after being approved [JURIST reports] via referendum in January 2009. In October 2008, the Bolivian National Congress ratified [JURIST report] the proposed reforms [JURIST news archive] after Morales agreed not to run for re-election in 2014. In August 2008, Morales won a confidence referendum, which he personally proposed [JURIST reports] in a bid to legitimize his campaign for the constitutional changes.