Oil report

Bolivia's Morales favorite in presidential race-poll

LA PAZ, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales is the clear favorite to win re-election in December, according to an opinion poll published on Tuesday.

Morales, the Andean country’s first Indian president, nationalized energy, mining and telecommunications companies in his first term and has vowed to further increase the government’s role in the economy if he wins the Dec. 6 presidential election.

He is also promising to spend heavily in social projects including roads, hydroelectric dams, hospitals and schools, and expand political rights for indigenous peoples.

According to the Ipsos Apoyo poll published by La Razon newspaper, some 52 percent of voters support Morales, while his closest contender, Manfred Reyes, the former governor of the central region of Cochabamba, has 21 percent support.

Conservative politician Samuel Doria Medina, a wealthy cement businessman, trailed far behind with 13 percent.

To avoid a runoff Morales needs to win more than 50 percent of the votes, or more than 45 percent and a 10 point lead over the runner-up.

Congressional elections also will take place on Dec. 6.

Morales, an Aymara Indian who herded llamas as a child, needs a solid victory to dominate Congress, which would allow his party to pass legislation without opposition input.

He has long complained that right-wing parties have used their slim majority in the Senate to block dozens of bills proposed by his Movement Toward Socialism party.

Critics say Morales, who professes admiration for Cuba’s Fidel Castro, could use a majority in Congress to lead the country into a Cuban-style socialist regime.

An opinion poll released last month by Encuestas & Estudios Gallup showed Morales with 57.7 percent support.

If re-elected, Morales will have to deal with falling revenues due to dwindling Brazilian demand for natural gas, the country’s main revenue earner.

He will also need to tackle a strong pro-autonomy movement in eastern regions where his socialist policies are unpopular.

Reyes has vowed to give handouts of $1,000 to about a million families if he wins and to free his imprisoned running mate, Leopoldo Fernandez. Fernandez, a former governor, is awaiting trial for genocide over the deaths of at least 10 Morales supporters during a wave of violent anti-government protests last year.

For the poll, Ipsos Apoyo surveyed over 2,200 people in the nine regions of the country. The poll has an error margin of 5 percentage points, according to La Razon.

Riding strong support from Bolivia’s majority Indian population, Morales won sweeping victories in a recall vote in August last year and a constitutional referendum in January.

Reporting by Eduardo Garcia; Editing by Vivianne Rodrigues and Vicki Allen