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Page last updated at 02:25 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 03:25 UK

Bolivians to hold confidence vote

Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz on 5 May
President Morales faces bitter opposition to his reforms

The people of Bolivia are to hold a vote of confidence in the rule of their leftist President, Evo Morales, as he struggles to enact radical reform.

Mr Morales, who has more than two years to run as leader, agreed to hold the referendum after the opposition-run upper house of parliament backed it.

The Senate has repeatedly challenged his government.

Citizens will vote within 90 days on whether he, his vice-president and nine governors should stay in office.

Mr Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, wants the country's wealthier eastern regions to contribute more to the poorer west, where the bulk of his supporters come from.

His reforms have brought him up against rebellious regional governors and this week he rejected an unofficial referendum on autonomy held by the resource-rich region of Santa Cruz region as illegal.

'Provoking instability'

The terms of President Morales and Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera formally expire in January 2011.

However, they could be forced out sooner if more than 53.74% of voters - their margin of support at the December 2005 election - reject them.

In that case, a new general election will be held.

Governors of nine regions, including opposition politicians, will be subjected to the same test.

The idea of a referendum on confidence was raised by President Morales himself in December, when the opposition rejected it.

However, the success of the anti-presidential poll in Santa Cruz has encouraged opposition hopes of defeating Mr Morales.

Presidential spokesman Ivan Canelas suggested on Thursday that the opposition was seeking to provoke "uncertainty or instability".




SEE ALSO
Morales dismisses autonomy vote
05 May 08 |  Americas
Bolivia poll sparks crisis fears
30 Apr 08 |  Americas
Setback to Bolivian reform plan
08 Mar 08 |  Americas
Battle for Bolivia's heart
08 Sep 07 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Country profile: Bolivia
22 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

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