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Bolivia's President Draws Strong Backing in Recall Vote


Bolivian President Evo Morales has declared victory in a recall vote, in which exit polls showed he received more than 63 percent of ballots. Initial returns also indicate that five of eight governors in the recall also won the votes needed to remain in office. VOA's Brian Wagner has this report.

President Morales spoke to a crowd of supporters outside the presidential palace in La Paz a few hours after polls closed in Sunday's recall vote. The socialist leader thanked voters for their support and said his apparent victory helped validate his government and its reform program.

Mr. Morales also appealed to opposition leaders to put aside their differences with the government and work to improve conditions in the South American nation.

He said he hopes opposition leaders will recognize the will of voters expressed in the recall vote and will cooperate with the government to seek unity and equality for all Bolivians.

Exit polls showed Mr. Morales received a much larger share of votes than he did in the presidential election in December 2005, when he won about 54 percent of ballots.

The president is expected to use the results to rally support for a reform program that includes nationalization of key industries, land reform and a new constitution. Opposition leaders have rejected the draft constitution, which calls for state control of natural gas and oil industries in eastern Bolivia. Several eastern governors have opposed recent efforts by the central government to demand higher taxes on energy resources in their regions.

Six opposition governors and two governors allied with the president also faced recall in Sunday's vote. Initial returns indicated five won their elections, while two opposition officials and one pro-Morales governor lost their seats.

One of the losers was the governor in the central region of Cochabamba, who had opposed the recall for weeks and on Sunday said he would not recognize the result.

Already, the legality of the recall has led to a series of legal battles between the central government and opposition governors. Prior to the voting, officials had disputed the terms of the recall vote, which is not provided for in the current constitution.

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