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Page last updated at 11:51 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 12:51 UK

Governors snub Bolivia referendum

Evo Morales in a file photo from 16 June 2008
Evo Morales says the recall vote will be a judgement on Bolivia's politicians

Five of Bolivia's nine regional governors have rejected President Evo Morales' plans for a vote on whether they should all stay in office.

President Morales set 10 August for a recall referendum, aiming to gather support for his wide-ranging reforms.

The governors said they would not hold referendums in their regions, calling instead for early general elections.

Mr Morales is locked in a bitter dispute with the regions that want more autonomy from the central government.

On Sunday, the province of Tarija became the fourth to vote in favour of greater independence.

The government has dismissed the autonomy referendums as illegal and has pointed to the high rate of abstentions - in Tarija's case put at some 30%.

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The governors of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija - plus Cochabamba - issued a statement on Monday, saying they would not stage the planned recall referendum unless "it complies with the autonomy statutes" that have recently been approved.

They called for a meeting to be held on 1 July to seek a way out of the crisis.

If no agreement was reached, general elections set for 2011 should be brought forward, they said.

A senior government minister, Juan Ramon Quintana, responded by accusing the governors of "coup-mongering".

Correspondents say that the latest developments make a solution to the long-simmering political impasse in Bolivia more remote than ever.

Constitution

At its heart is Mr Morales's attempt to push through constitutional changes that would enshrine reforms such as land redistribution to Bolivia's indigenous majority and the sharing of wealth with the poorer western regions.

The proposals also include allowing the president to stand for re-election for another five-year term.

A woman vote's in Sunday's autonomy referendum in Tarija
The autonomy votes have raised the political temperature

Critics say the constitution would cede too much control to the government in La Paz.

Mr Morales has said the recall referendum will allow voters to judge the work of their politicians.

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

They would lose the recall referendum if more than 53.74% of voters - their margin of support at the December 2005 election - rejected them.

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

Regional governors would be subjected to the same test.




SEE ALSO
Morales sets Bolivia recall date
12 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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