Tue, Oct 07, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Bolivia’s Morales calls early general elections for June

AFP , LA PAZ

Bolivian President Evo Morales announced on Sunday that general elections would be moved up a year-and-a-half to next June, a change decried by the opposition as a ploy to keep the ruling socialist government in power.

“I would estimate — and I’ll say it up front without the least fear — that [the elections] will be in June,” said Morales at a meeting of socialist leaders in the central city of Cochabamba.

The election pledge comes at a time when Morales is struggling to maintain authority over rebel governors in eastern Bolivia, who are fighting a draft constitution that seeks to redistribute land and national wealth for the benefit of the indigenous majority, which accounts for 60 percent of the country’s 10 million people.

Morales, however, is confident the constitution will be approved in a referendum in December, or soon thereafter, and is optimistic enough to bring the presidential election forward by 18 months.

“The next parliament is going to be an absolute majority, and so implementing the new constitution will be much easier, because there will be no deadlock in the Senate, as we are experiencing now,” he said.

Meanwhile, he failed after 10 hours of closed-door talks with four governors to find a solution to the political upheaval. Morales and governors from the regions of Santa Cruz, Beni, Tarija and Chuquisaca have received a report from technical working groups who have been trying since Sept. 18 to find a solution to the crisis.

Morales has attempted to railroad his reforms through opposition from the eastern governors, who represent a powerful landowning elite of mostly European descent who have been fighting for autonomy and against a new constitution. The meeting on Sunday — the third in eight months — was held in the presence of observers from the UN and regional organizations.

No date was set for more talks, Minister for Rural Development Carlos Romero said.

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