President Evo Morales is defying poor results emerging in Bolivia's referendum count, saying he'll wait until the "final whistle." Results are still awaited from his power base in rural indigenous areas and from abroad.
Morales's bid for a fourth term via a constitutional amendment remained in doubt on Tuesday, with the "no" tally at 56 percent and the "yes" count at 44 percent.
Morales, however, said he was "optimistic" that slow-reporting rural counts would still deliver a turnaround. Some 80 percent of ballots from Sunday's referendum had been counted by midnight Monday.
"They don't like us much in the city," he told a televised news conference, and accused detractors of using social media to "spread lies."
Groups opposed to his intention to run for a fourth presidential term in 2019 staged a sit-in outside the counting center in La Paz late on Monday.
Samuel Doria Medina, who twice lost to Morales in past presidential elections, said the counting so far showed that Bolivia had "recovered democracy."
Inter-American Dialog think tank president Michael Shifter said the early returns were a blow for Morales, who had tallied more than 60 percent in his 2014 re-election.
First elected in 2006
The former coca growers union leader was first elected in 2006 as Bolivia's first indigenous president.
Voters wanted cleaner politics, Shifter said, referring to accusations that Morales' socialist drive amid a mineral resources boom had at times been too flashy and marred by scandal.
Analyst Jorge Komadina said returns showed voters deciding against a further Morales' term in medium-sized and main cities.
The head of an observer mission sent by the Organization of American States, Leonel Fernandez, said there was no evidence of ballot fraud but added that counting was slow.
Morales told the Spanish newspaper "El Pais," that he is prepared to "go home content" if voters ended up rejecting his bid for a fourth term.
ipj/jil (APF, AP)