February 12, 2016 / 1:41 PM / 2 years ago

Bolivia's Morales loses ground ahead of Feb. 21 referendum: poll

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivian President Evo Morales has lost ground in his effort at changing the constitution to allow him to run for a third term, according to a poll published on Friday.

Bolivia's President Evo Morales speaks during a ceremony to mark 10 years of his administration during a session of congress in La Paz, Bolivia January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Bolivian Presidency/Handout via Reuters

Bolivians will vote in a Feb. 21 referendum on the change in law proposed by the leftist leader. Forty percent of respondents in a survey of 2,368 voters said they would vote against the proposal, up from 37 percent in the same poll last month.

The survey was conducted by pollster Equipos Mori for the Bolivian newspaper El Deber. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent. It showed 40 percent planned to vote to allow Morales to run again, inching down from 41 percent last month.

Eleven percent said they were undecided on how they will vote in the referendum, which will ask a simple yes or no to the question of the constitutional reform. Seven percent declined to answer the poll question, saying they preferred to keep their intentions private. Two percent said they planned to cast blank or null ballots.

A “yes” win would hand Morales the opportunity to extend his brand of “indigenous socialism” under which he has nationalized key industries including oil and gas to finance welfare programs that have slashed poverty, and build roads and schools.

A decade of robust growth has been powered by Bolivian natural gas exports, but tumbling global energy prices risk straining Morales’ development model.

Vice President Álvaro García Linera told local television on Thursday that pro-referendum campaigners would go door to door drumming up support.

“We have a week to go and we are very confident that in these meetings, in the street, in the media, on the radio and on social media we can guarantee a strong victory for the ‘Yes’,” he said.

Reporting by Daniel Ramos, writing by Hugh Bronstein, Editing by W Simon

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