[JURIST] Bolivians in the state of Santa Cruz [official website, in Spanish] participated in a regional referendum Sunday on greater autonomy from the Bolivian national government despite opposition from Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website; BBC profile], who characterized the referendum as illegal and unconstitutional. The poll was backed by Santa Cruz leaders as a way for the state to protect its natural gas and agriculture from Morales' efforts to redistribute land and natural resource revenues. Local media reported 85 percent of voters supporting the referendum, although Morales said that the referendum was a failure because more than half the ballots cast were invalid.
In 2006, governors from six of Bolivia's nine states vowed to break off relations [JURIST report] with Morales following a bid to give his leftist party more power [JURIST report] to rewrite the Bolivian constitution [JURIST news archive]. In March, Bolivia's National Electoral Court blocked a national referendum on the new draft constitution originally slated for May 4, finding that the proposed referendum [JURIST reports] failed to satisfy a constitutional provision requiring the national vote to be held within 90 days of congressional approval. The proposed national referendum was narrowly approved in February by the Bolivian Constitutional Assembly [official website, in Spanish], amid reports that Morales supporters prevented many draft opponents from entering the constitutional building and participating in the vote. AP has more. Xinhua has additional coverage.