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Bolivia president seeks congressional approval on constitutional referendum

[JURIST] Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website; BBC profile] announced Saturday on state television plans to send a bill to the Bolivian National Congress [official website, in Spanish] seeking approval of a national referendum on proposed reforms to the country's constitution [text]. The move comes days after the Morales administration refused to recognize [JURIST report] a National Electoral Court (CNE) [official website] decision suspending the constitutional referendum, stating that the relevant letters sent by the CNE to Morales have "no legal effect." According to Reuters [report], Morales' address called for Congressional approval to ensure the CNE "'has no pretexts'" to annul the referendum, currently set by Morales for December 7 [JURIST report; decree text]. From La Paz, La Razon has local coverage, in Spanish.

If approved, the proposed constitutional amendments would distribute more of Bolivia's land and energy resource income to the country's indigenous population. In May, the Bolivian National Congress approved a referendum on Morales' own leadership, personally proposed [JURIST reports] by the president last December in a bid to legitimize his campaign for the constitutional changes. The results of that August vote permitted Morales to retain his office; several of the provincial governors also confirmed by that referendum oppose the constitutional reforms [JURIST reports]. Weeks of regional protests in affluent states opposing the income redistribution proposals -- leading to a shut down of highways and a small airport [AP report] on Friday -- culminated in Morales accusing opposition governors of a "civil coup against democracy" [AFP report].

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