Bolivia has held a referendum to decide if President Morales should be able to go for a controversial fourth term in office. His once iron-clad popularity has waned recently amidst corruption allegations.
Bolivia's referendum over whether to allowPresident Evo Morales
to run for another term got off to a rocky start on Sunday. Enraged citizens set fire to ballot boxes in the city of Santa Cruz after learning they would not be allowed to register. The lack of voting materials in other parts of the country got the referendum off to a much delayed start.
Morales, a leftist currently embroiled in a corruption controversy, is currently serving his third term in office. He and his supporters were seeking permission from the public to amend the constitution so that the country's first indigenous leader can run again in 2019.
The president said he wanted to continue in office to see through his "Agenda 2025" to root out extreme poverty in the Latin American nation high in the Andes mountains.
It looked likely to be a close call by Sunday evening. Support for Morales had shown a slight but ever weakening lead in recent polls.
Once extremely popular and largely credited with raising the standard of living in Bolivia, Morales' star has faded over corruption allegations. One example of the scandals to plague his reputation recently was the revelation that a lucrative railroad expansion contract had been awarded to the Chinese engineering firm CAMC. One of CAMC's top managers is the president's former girlfriend.
Despite a congressional probe into the graft allegations, Morales has dismissed them as "a hoax by the US embassy" and insisted that he has "nothing to hide."
es/jm (Reuters, AFP)