Partial exit poll results show that left-wing Bolivian President Evo Morales has narrowly lost the referendum to allow him to run for a fourth term by amending the constitution.
With more than 80 percent of the votes counted, the opponents have won 56.5 percent of the votes versus 43.2 percent in favor of Morales, according to the top electoral body, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
Morales has promised to respect the official results of Sunday’s vote, but insists on waiting for full results to appear, especially from rural areas where he enjoys strong support.
“We are going to respect the results, whether it be a No or a Yes. We always have respected them. That is democracy,” he told a news conference in La Paz on Monday
“We are going to wait patiently for the final whistle from the electoral tribunal. We are optimistic,” said Morales, who is Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state.
On Sunday night, Vice President Alvaro Garcia said at a news conference that the vote was too close to call. “No one has won, nor has anyone lost,” he said.
Morales was first sworn into office in 2006, and his current term ends in 2020.
The constitutional changes recently put to vote would authorize Morales to run for re-election in 2019 and potentially remain in power until 2025.
The current constitution, adopted in 2009, restricts presidents to two consecutive terms. However, the 56-year-old president’s first two four-year terms are not counted because he won those elections under previous laws.
Morales has overseen steady economic growth at an average rate of 5.1 percent per annum and a large drop in poverty and inequality over the past ten years.
Critics, however, accuse him of an authoritarian streak and favoring his own Aymara majority over other indigenous groups.