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Page last updated at 08:54 GMT, Monday, 11 August 2008 09:54 UK

Bolivia's Morales hails poll win

Bolivia's President Evo Morales addresses his supporters

Bolivia's President Evo Morales has claimed victory in a referendum on whether he should continue in power.

Unofficial results gave Mr Morales a convincing win, and he promised to continue his reforms, including the nationalisation of key industries.

Four of six opposition governors, who have led protests against the president and are demanding more autonomy, also won the right to stay in office.

The outcome of the vote is likely to leave Bolivia divided, analysts say.

Both sides were quick to interpret the result as a validation of their position.

"What the Bolivian people have expressed with their votes today is the consolidation of change," Mr Morales told thousands of cheering supporters in La Paz.

"We're here to move forward with the recovery of our natural resources, the consolidation of nationalisation, and the state takeover of companies," he told the crowd from the balcony of the presidential palace.

Santa Cruz Governor Ruben Costas
Santa Cruz's Ruben Costas said the outcome was a defeat for Mr Morales

The president congratulated the opposition governors who were re-confirmed in their posts and urged them "to work together" with him.

Unofficial exit polls said Mr Morales had won more than 60% of the vote. Official results are expected in the next few days.

In all, eight governors were subject to recall votes, and five of them were victorious, according to early projections.

One of Mr Morales's fiercest opponents, the Santa Cruz governor Ruben Costas, celebrated his referendum victory in front of supporters who chanted "Autonomy, autonomy".

"This referendum has defeated the remains of centralism, has squashed the manipulation of the enemies of true change, " said Mr Costas.

Three governors, including two Morales supporters, are set to lose their jobs and fresh elections will then be held.

But the defeated governor of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa, refused to recognise the result and vowed to resist any attempt to make him stand down.

"My lawyers have told me this is unconstitutional. Legally, I continue to be the governor of Cochabamba," he said.

Deep divisions

Bolivia has become increasingly divided between rich and poor, east and west, over the president's plans to radically reorganise the way the country is run, says the BBC's Daniel Schweimler in La Paz.

Counting of votes after the 10 August referendum
The result leaves Bolivia as polarised as ever, correspondents say

Mr Morales wants to give poor and indigenous communities and women a greater voice, and he wants to redistribute land in what is South America's poorest country, our correspondent adds.

But many in the gas-rich east of the country oppose the president's proposals and resent the central government cutting their share of gas revenues. They have responded by calling for greater regional autonomy.

Mr Morales has criticised what he calls privileged groups who talk of separation and oppose change.

The dispute sometimes breaks out in violence, and protests increased in the run-up to the referendum.

Last week, Evo Morales had to cancel two planned trips when angry protesters blocked regional airports.




SEE ALSO
Bolivian poll unites and divides
11 Aug 08 |  Americas
Morales calls for Bolivian unity
07 Aug 08 |  Americas
Bolivia protests prevent summit
05 Aug 08 |  Americas
Governors snub Bolivia referendum
24 Jun 08 |  Americas
Morales sets Bolivia recall date
12 May 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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