Morales survives recall referendum in Bolivia

August 11th, 2008 - 10:46 am ICT by IANS  

La Paz, Aug 11 (DPA) Bolivian President Evo Morales has survived a recall referendum, according to exit polls cited by Bolivian media. Morales Sunday obtained 56.7 percent of the votes in the referendum, according to the exit polls. His mandate would have been revoked had he failed to obtain at least 46.3 percent of the votes.

He had requested the vote in a bid to consolidate his power after a series of recall referendums pitting the leftist president and the country’s wealthy provinces over regional autonomy.

The Bolivian opposition has turned the pro-autonomy movement in four of the country’s nine regions into a tool to attack the government, which has sought a redistribution of the country’s resources to improve the lot of the impoverished indigenous majority.

Official results were to be known Monday at the earliest, National Electoral Tribunal president Jose Luis Exeni said late Sunday. He told reporters that the referendum had a turnout of 80 percent of registered voters.

The left-wing populist Morales did not come out wholly unscathed in the recall vote, in which the mandates of his vice president and eight of nine provincial governors were also at stake.

At a press conference in Cochabamba before exit poll results were made public, Morales praised the referendum, which he called “quiet and peaceful”.

“Respect for the rules and the sovereign will of the people is above personal interests,” Morales said. “The results have to be respected and allow for a new political scene.”

Morales was elected in late 2005 to become Bolivia’s first Indio president. His five-year mandate was set to expire in 2011, unless he lost the recall referendum.

He has pushed through a new constitution and enacted a series of socialist reforms to aid the poor native population in the mountainous west.

Bolivia has a population of 10 million. Around 60 percent live in poverty, most of them Indios.

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