Bolivians head to polls as recall vote tests Morales

Other News Materials 10 August 2008 07:47 (UTC +04:00)

Sunday's recall election of Bolivian President Evo Morales and other leaders is the latest in a series of showdown referenda, between the leftist president and the country's wealthy provinces, over regional autonomy, dpa reported.

Since Morales' election in 2005, the country's first Indio president has pushed through a new constitution and enacted a series of socialist reforms to aid the poor native population in the mountainous west.

Morales requested Sunday's recall vote in a bid to consolidate his power as voters nationwide decide whether Morales, Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and eight of nine provincial governors should remain in office.

Polls show Morales is likely to score a victory, but it is unclear whether the referendum will really reduce the deep divisions in the country.

Since the beginning of the year, citizens in four provinces have approved referenda, by large margins, for greater autonomy from the national government, which would grant them control over key natural resources, including oil.

Morales declared each vote unconstitutional and void, but was unable to stop them from being held.

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.