By Daniel Ramos
LA PAZ (Reuters) – A former foreign minister and a coca farmer are the front-runners to be on the ticket for exiled Bolivian President Evo Morales’ political party in the May elections in the South American country, officials said on Friday.
Former Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, an Aymara Indian, was picked as the presidential candidate for the Movement to Socialism (MAS) party in the vote, which will serve as a re-run of a disputed October election.
Coca farmer Andronico Rodriguez, a disciple of Morales, will join the ticket as the vice presidential candidate, MAS official and union leader Theodore Mamani confirmed to Reuters, adding the selection was made on Thursday by party consensus.
The choice by the party organizations, however, may need to be rubber stamped by Morales himself, currently exiled in Argentina.
Morales, who was Bolivia’s first indigenous president, is also Aymara and grew to prominence as a union leader for coca farmers.
Morales tweeted later in the day a document saying the two were “pre-candidates” along with two other of his close allies.
Senior MAS party officials are scheduled to meet this weekend in Buenos Aires, where Morales, who is barred from running for president again, is currently living in asylum.
The ticket must formalize its participation in the election to the electoral tribunal by Feb. 3.
Choquehuanca, 58, is a veteran indigenous politician who was born in the Bolivian highlands. Rodriguez, 30, is vice president of a prominent coca farmer union in the city of Cochabamba.
Morales, a socialist leader who was at the helm of Bolivia for nearly 14 years, stepped down on Nov. 10 after a disputed election victory sparked protests and led to allies, the police and the military pulling their support.
Bolivia’s electoral tribunal set May 3 as the date for fresh elections after an Organization of American States audit found serious irregularities in the way votes were counted in the disputed October election.
After initially going to Mexico, Morales arrived in Argentina in December, where he has remained vocal on politics, frequently taking aim through his Twitter account at the caretaker government of interim President Jeanine Anez.
(Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Paul Simao and Sandra Maler)