Source AP ©

Bolivian lawmakers put up fight

A started scuffle between Bolivian lawmakers meant a long-simmering fight for control of the Andean country's judicial branch boiled over in the aisles of Congress.

Opposition leaders seized the dais at the lower house in an effort to block President Evo Morales' attempt to bring charges against the country's highest court for rejecting four of his judicial appointees.

Lawmakers from Morales' party, who hold a slim majority in the chamber, tried to dislodge their rivals. Both sides stood on tables and yelled at the other before hurling water and engaging in brief but violent fisticuffs.

Morales appointed four magistrate judges during a congressional recess in December.

Bolivia's Constitutional Tribunal ruled in May that the judges could serve only 90 days unless confirmed by Congress. The tribunal ordered the appointees temporarily suspended until lawmakers ratified them last month.

But Morales has continued to press the issue, arguing that tribunal does not have the authority to suspend judicial appointees. Morales has asked Congress to charge four of the five tribunal justices with overstepping their legal duties. If the charges eventually pass in the lower house, the justices will be suspended.

The opposition sees Morales' move as a violation of the nation's separation of powers and an attempt to stack the tribunal with favorable justices.

If Morales succeeds in suspending the justices, his choices to fill their seats will likely face an uphill battle in Congress, where his majority in the lower house is offset by an opposition-controlled Senate.

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