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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 21:25 GMT
Morales close to outright victory
Evo Morales
Mr Morales says he will not deliberately seek confrontation
Bolivia's socialist candidate Evo Morales has obtained an unbeatable lead in the country's presidential election, officials say.

With 93% of the Sunday's votes counted, Mr Morales' has 54% of the vote - enough for an outright victory.

Under Bolivian electoral law, it is up to congress to decide between the two frontrunners if no candidate receives 50% of the vote.

Mr Morales is set to become Bolivia's first indigenous president.

The official count shows conservative candidate Jorge Quiroga - a former head of state - far behind with just under 30% of the vote. He has already admitted defeat.

'No confrontation'

Officials in Bolivia's interim administration - which came to power after President Carlos Mesa was forced to quit amid street protests - are reportedly preparing to hand over power to Mr Morales, an Aymara coca farmer.

At a news conference in the main city of La Paz, the socialist leader insisted that he would not deliberately seek confrontation on key policies.

Mr Morales has expressed his admiration for Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and his rise to power is said to worry the US.

In a BBC interview this week, Mr Morales defended traditional uses of coca. He has said he will fight to get the coca plant removed from a United Nations list of poisonous plants.

But Mr Morales has also called for an alliance with Washington against drug trafficking.

He also pledged to increase state control over his country's huge gas reserves - the second largest in the region.

Bolivia, South America's poorest state, has had five presidents in four years.

Bolivians also elected a new congress and regional governors on Sunday.


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