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Early Count Indicates Morales Losing Bolivia Referendum

  • VOA News

Bolivia's President Evo Morales speaks during a news conference at the presidential palace in La Paz, Bolivia, Feb. 22, 2016.

Bolivia's President Evo Morales speaks during a news conference at the presidential palace in La Paz, Bolivia, Feb. 22, 2016.

Bolivia's President Evo Morales is asking the country to wait patiently for the final election result of a referendum to allow him to run for a fourth term, despite indications he has lost.

"I have asked all social groups, those that took part in both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns, to show great serenity and responsibility in waiting for the final result from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal," Morales said Monday.

He added that he will respect the outcome either way.

Partial official results from Sunday's referendum show the "no" vote at about 60 percent. Vote tallies are still coming in from rural areas where Morales has strong support.

Exit polls published by private media indicate a close vote, but also show the "no" vote winning.

Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous leader, wants to run for a fourth consecutive term in 2019, and asked voters to amend the constitution to allow him to do so.

Voters were evenly split on the issue until recently.

An Aymara woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the constitution referendum in El Alto, Bolivia, Feb. 21, 2016.

An Aymara woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the constitution referendum in El Alto, Bolivia, Feb. 21, 2016.

Now, however, a growing number of Bolivians are apparently starting to doubt the integrity of their president, following recent revelations that a former girlfriend of Morales works for a company that has won lucrative government contracts.

It was also revealed that in 2007, the girlfriend and Morales had a baby who died under unexplained circumstances.

Morales says the charges are dirty tactics designed to divert attention from his achievements in cutting Bolivia's extreme poverty and empowering the country's indigenous majority during a decade in office.

Supporters of the president say his socialist policies have brought social spending to the poor and his leadership has brought stability to the country.

Last week, supporters of the president were accused of setting fire to a local opposition government office in which six people died.

John Crabtree, a Latin American political analyst, told Reuters Sunday's vote was "a much closer-run contest than anything Evo Morales has had to fight since he became president in 2006."

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