Bolivian provinces reject ruling against autonomy plan

March 9th, 2008 - 7:10 pm ICT by admin  

La Paz, March 9 (IANS) Four opposition-controlled provinces have rejected a ruling by Bolivia’s top electoral tribunal that declared planned referendums on autonomy proposals to be illegal, EFE news agency reported Sunday. The governor of Bolivia’s eastern province of Santa Cruz,Ruben Costas, said Saturday the National Electoral Court, known as the CNE, has no authority to prohibit a plebiscite on autonomy for the state as the referendum was called by the province’s elected officials and is “fully constitutional”.

The provinces of Beni, Pando and Tarija have also rejected the court ruling.

The CNE issued two rulings Friday, the first postponed a May 4 referendum on a new constitution that would give more political power to the country’s downtrodden Indian majority and the second ruled that autonomy plebiscites planned in several opposition-led provinces were illegal.

The four opposition-controlled provinces - known as the “eastern crescent” - consider the constitution proposal backed by President Evo Morales and approved by the Constituent Assembly in December amid violent protests and an opposition walkout to be illegal.

Law-makers from Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism party (MAS) approved a bill to put the draft constitution to a national vote on May 4 during a controversial session late February in which groups of Indians and miners sympathetic to the president prevented several conservative law-makers from entering the National Congress.

Morales, who took office in January 2006, is the first indigenous president of Indian-majority Bolivia. Winning 54 percent of the vote, he triumphed over 10 other candidates in the December 2005 elections, which saw the biggest turnout in decades.

The draft constitution is aimed at redressing Indian grievances and narrowing the wealth gap in South America’s poorest nation

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