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Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 10:56 UK

Morales 'set on Bolivia reforms'

Bolivia's President Evo Morales
The referendum will test whether Mr Morales still has the people's support

Bolivian President Evo Morales has said that if he wins a recall referendum on his leadership, he will use it as a springboard to push through reforms.

Mr Morales - who has more than two years left in office - told the BBC he was confident of winning August's vote.

Voters will also decide if regional governors should keep their jobs.

If successful in the ballot, Mr Morales wants to hold a public referendum on a draft constitution which has been awaiting approval since last year.

The constitution aims to enshrine reforms such as land redistribution to Bolivia's indigenous majority and sharing of wealth with the poorer western regions.

However, critics say it cedes too much control to the government in La Paz.

'Confidence'

Mr Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, set 10 August for the recall elections after Bolivia's opposition-dominated Senate passed a bill ordering that they be held within 90 days.

His term and that of Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera formally expire in January 2011.

A farmer tills a field in Bolivia (file image)
Mr Morales's reforms aim to redistribute lwealth to poorer regions

They will lose the recall referendum 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. Regional governors will be subjected to the same test.

He first proposed holding a nationwide referendum last year as part of an ongoing battle with opposition governors.

Mr Morales's new constitutional project was formally unveiled last December but is still awaiting approval after a boycott by opposition politicians.

It would grant greater powers and a bigger share of land and resources to Bolivia's indigenous people, long marginalised by the country's elite, who are mainly of European descent.

Mr Morales told the BBC's Andres Schipani in La Paz that he had "a lot of confidence in the people" and that that was why he wanted to put the new constitution to them in a referendum.

Opponents in the eastern states - home to a large part of Bolivia's oil and gas deposits - argue that Mr Morales's plans would unfairly privilege indigenous groups and would mean greater central control, including two consecutive five-year terms for the president.


SEE ALSO
Morales sets Bolivia recall date
12 May 08 |  Americas
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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