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Bolivian President's Bid for 4th Term May Fail

Voters may strike down Bolivian President Evo Morales tries to amend the constitution to run for a fourth term in 2019.
Image: Bolivia's President Evo Morales waves to supporters at the entrance of the presidential palace in La Paz
Bolivia's President Evo Morales waves to supporters at the entrance of the presidential palace in La Paz, October 12, 2014. Morales declared a landslide re-election victory on Sunday, hailing it as a triumph for socialist reforms that have cut poverty and vastly expanded the state's role in the booming economy.GASTON BRITO / Reuters
/ Source: Associated Press

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Bolivian voters' waning patience with government corruption may stymie President Evo Morales' bid to amend the constitution, and make his current term in office his last.

While a "yes" vote in Sunday's referendum would let Bolivia's first indigenous president seek a fourth term in 2019, partial results Monday and unofficial quick counts indicated Morales' bid may fail.

Morales said in a brief televised news conference Monday that he was not giving up hope - calling celebrations by his opponents premature - and had faith in the slower-reporting countryside.

"They don't like us much in the city, but the first results give me hope," he said.

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International observers did not report any serious irregularities and vote counting was slow but not unusually as paper ballots are manually counted.

With 47 percent of polling stations reporting Monday afternoon, the "no" vote stood at 59 percent. Vote reporting is traditionally slow from the countryside, where Morales is most popular.

Two unofficial quick counts by polling firms that looked at results from a sampling of polling stations said 52 percent voted "no." One firm, Ipsos-Apoyo, counted ballots at one in 15 polling stations.

Morales said that whatever happens, he will respect voters' will. He said that if the ballot question loses, life will go on. "I won't get desperate,' he said.

He blamed his disappointing showing on an opposition "smear campaign."

The referendum's timing could not have been worse for Morales. He was stung this month by an influence-peddling scandal involving a former lover revealed by an opposition-aligned journalist and by a deadly incident of political violence.

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Morales has presided over an unprecedented economic boom as prices for raw materials soared just as he took office. He's credited with spreading Bolivia's natural resource wealth and empowering its indigenous majority.

He built airports, highways and the pride of La Paz, an Austrian-built aerial tramway system. He also put a Chinese-built satellite into space. Gross domestic product per capita income rose by nearly one-third, according to the International Monetary Fund, and a new indigenous middle class was born.

But the boom is over. Bolivia's revenues from natural gas and minerals, making up three-fourths of its exports, were down 32 percent last year. Economists say Morales leaned heavily on extractive industries to pay for populist programs and failed to diversify the economy.

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