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Bolivian Vote Decides Fate of President, Governors


Bolivians have voted in a referendum to decide whether President Evo Morales and eight regional governors will remain in office. The vote was called in part to help resolve a political stalemate between Mr. Morales and opposition leaders, who oppose the president's reform plans. Unofficial polls indicate that Morales is likely to remain in office. VOA's Brian Wagner has this report.

More than four million Bolivians were eligible to cast ballots in the vote to decide the political fate of President Morales and eight of the nation's nine governors. A defeat for Mr. Morales would force him to call new presidential elections.

Mr. Morales is hoping for strong support to boost his reform efforts, including a new draft constitution that aims to empower the nation's poor indigenous minority. Most of the governors competing in the vote are openly critical of the president's reforms, especially attempts to increase taxes on natural gas and oil industries in eastern Bolivia. Four departments passed autonomy measures this year in an effort to demand greater political and fiscal power from the central government.

Tin miners and anti-government groups led violent protests in the days leading up to the vote. But no disruptions were reported during the voting.

After polling stations began closing late Sunday, Mr. Morales said he was pleased that the voting was peaceful.

Morales said he wanted to express his admiration for Bolivian voters, who helped conduct a successful vote, despite provocations from some anti-government groups.

The president accused some opposition groups of trying to interfere with the election schedule and of trying to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the nation's electoral procedures. He said observers from the Organization of American States and other groups were monitoring the vote to guard against potential problems.

Initial results were expected to be released late Sunday.

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