Bolivian reform could extend leftist president’s record rule

epa05167189 Bolivian President Evo Morales (C) participate at the closing ceremony of the electoral campaign with Socialism Movement supporters four days before the referendum in order to reform the Constitution in La Paz, Bolivia, 17 February 2016. Bolivians will go to the polls on 21 February to vote in a referendum on whether to alter the constitution to allow Morales to seek what would be a fourth consecutive term.  EPA/Martin Alipaz

La Paz / AFP

Bolivians vote Sunday on a constitutional reform that would allow Evo Morales to seek a fourth term as president, potentially extending his stay in office until 2025.
Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, was first elected to office in 2006 and re-elected twice. His current term ends in 2020.
The 56 year-old leader is the longest-serving president since independence from colonial Spain in 1825 — a rare accomplishment in a country known for military coups and shaky, short-lived governments.
In the weeks leading up to the
referendum polls showed voters divided between support and opposition to the constitutional change.
But in the last days of campaigning, allegations that Morales abused his position to get a job for an ex-girlfriend appeared to have turned the tide against him.
The most recent polls showed 47 percent of voters leaning towards rejecting the constitutional reform, against 27 percent in favour.
Under the current constitution adopted in 2009, sitting presidents can only seek re-election once.
Bolivia’s Supreme Court ruled Morales’s first term was exempt from the rule, allowing him to run for a third term in 2014.
The campaign formally ended on Thursday but continued furiously on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter throughout the weekend.
The first results will be exit polls broadcast by local TV stations when balloting ends at 6 pm. The official results will be released hours later.
Voting is mandatory, and some 6.5 million Bolivians are eligible to cast ballots.
Morales’s most recent, and perhaps most damaging, scandal are charges of favoritism shown to CAMC, a Chinese engineering company that won the bid for a major railroad expansion project. The president rejected corruption allegations as “a hoax by the US embassy” to discredit him, and insists that he has “nothing to hide.”
In an attempt to clear his name Morales has asked state accounting authorities to investigate the process by which the government signed contracts worth $576 million with CAMC.

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