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Bolivia's Morales Accepts Referendum Defeat

by VOA News February 24, 2016

Bolivian President Evo Morales acknowledged defeat in a referendum aimed at allowing him to run for a fourth term in 2019.

In a speech Wednesday, Morales said he would respect the will of the people.

'We lost a democratic battle but not the war,' the leftist leader said, blaming the loss on discrimination and a smear campaign or 'dirty war' by the right-wing opposition.

A final tally of Sunday's referendum gave the 'no' side 51.3 percent of the vote and the 'yes' side's 48.7 percent.

Under Bolivia's constitution, the president gets a five-year mandate renewable just once.

Morales, however, had the constitution changed three years after taking power in 2006.

Under that revised constitution he was again elected president in 2009, then won again in 2014. His current term ends in 2020.

In recent weeks, Morales, traditionally supported by indigenous groups and grassroots organizations, has seen his popularity wane over a series of scandals.

He was accused of using his influence after his former girlfriend was employed by a Chinese company that received lucrative state contracts. Morales denied any impropriety and said he had not seen her since 2007. However, photos emerged online of the two taken last year.

Opponents have also accused his government of corruption and wasteful spending.

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