Morales' popularity up before Bolivia recall

Carlos Alberto Quiroga, Sun Aug 3, 2008

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivian President Evo Morales' approval rating rose to 59 percent in July, according to a poll published on Sunday, a margin that would see him survive a recall vote next week if voters poll accordingly.

Morales and a group of opposition governors face a recall vote on August 10 that the leftist leader proposed last year in a bid to undermine right-wing opponents who have challenged his economic and constitutional reforms.

Pushing for autonomy, they have forced him to put on hold his plan to redistribute land to poor farmers.

An Ipsos Apoyo poll of 1,002 people published in newspaper La Razon showed Morales' approval rating rose from 57 percent in June. It was his highest approval rating measured by the pollster in nine months.

However the survey did not measure voting intention.

Morales, who took power in the poorest nation in South America two years ago, needs to win 46.3 percent of the vote to stay in office.

An Indian from a poor background, Morales has billed the recall as a face-off between Bolivians supportive of his drive to tighten the state's grip over the economy, and those who want pro-business politicians back in power.

"With this referendum we want to deepen and accelerate the nationalization and recovery of natural resources," Morales told thousands of supporters on Saturday, describing the recall vote as a choice between "nationalization and privatization".

In a surprise resolution on Thursday night, the National Electoral Court called for a change to voting rules to give the recall process more legitimacy after weeks of protestations of unfairness from the opposition.

Morales' rightist foes had complained that the rules for the recall vote favored the president. Of the country's nine governors, eight face recalls.

Under the recall vote law approved by Congress, the president and each governor would be forced out if the votes against them exceeded the percentage and the number of votes each received when elected in late 2005.

That meant each governor needed from 52 percent to 62.1 percent of the recall vote to prevail. The Electoral Court lowered that to 50 percent for the governors, but did not modify the rule on the number of votes.

Polarization between the relatively prosperous eastern provinces and the western Andes, where Quechua and Aymara Indians strongly support Morales, has convulsed the country.

While recent polls suggest Morales will survive the vote, analysts say he has lost appeal among the middle class and even among Indians, who are frustrated because they say their living standards are not improving.

The Ipsos Apoyo poll was conducted between July 19-27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

(Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Republished from Reuters

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