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LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) - Bolivian President Evo Morales faces the tightest election of his political career Sunday as he tries to extend his nearly 14 years in power.
The 59-year-old leftist, who is seeking a fourth term, still appears to lead in polls. But some surveys say he’s likely to fall short of a first-round victory and could be vulnerable to a united opposition in a December runoff.
Bolivia’s first indigenous president is credited with pragmatic economic stewardship that spread the Andean country’s natural gas and mineral wealth among the masses. But he has lost support among voters frustrated by corruption scandals affecting his administration and his refusal to accept a referendum on limiting presidential terms. Critics also accuse him of a delayed response to vast forest fires this year that they blame on his push to develop areas with slash-and-burn agriculture.
An Oct. 4-6 poll by the San Andres Higher University and other institutions showed Morales apparently leading his nearest rival, former President Carlos Mesa, 32% to 27% heading into the first round of voting, with the rest split among other candidates.
That would set up a runoff, and the poll showed Morales and Mesa essentially tied at just under 36% each in a two-way race - with the rest of those surveyed saying they were undecided, would cast a null ballot or declining to state a preference. The poll surveyed 14,420 people and the margin of error was 2.8 percentage points.
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