October 1, 2014 / 2:56 PM / 6 years ago

Bolivia's Morales on course for re-election in first round: poll

Bolivia's President Evo Morales addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, September 24, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

LA PAZ (Reuters) - President Evo Morales is cruising to an outright first-round victory in Bolivia’s Oct. 12 presidential election, with his nearest rival trailing by 46 percentage points, a new opinion poll showed on Wednesday.

Morales is projected to win 59 percent of the vote in the first round, unchanged from polls in July and August, against 13 percent for Samuel Doria Medina, the Ipsos poll showed. Medina, a cement tycoon, was polling 17 percent in August.

Morales, a former coca farmer who became Bolivia’s first indigenous leader in 2006, promises to expand social reforms in the Andean nation, historically one of Latin America’s most unstable but which has enjoyed relative prosperity and calm under his presidency.

Critics of Morales accuse the leftist politician of defying the constitution adopted in 2009, which includes a limit of two consecutive presidential terms.

Last year the Supreme Court decreed the 54-year-old’s 2006-09 period in office should not be counted as a first term as it preceded the adoption of the constitution. Opponents branded the decision unacceptable.

To win outright in the first round, Morales needs to secure 50 percent of all valid votes plus one, or win 40 percent of the vote with a margin of at least 10 percentage points over his nearest rival.

Hailed by supporters as a champion of the poor, Morales has nationalised key industries including hydrocarbons and utilities. Gross domestic product doubled between 2005 and 2011.

Third-placed candidate Jorge Tuto Quiroga, who was president between 2001 and 2002, would take 8 percent of the vote, Ipsos said. Two other candidates at the back of the pack polled less than 3 percent each, while 16 percent of voters surveyed said they were either undecided or would spoil their ballot.

Reportin by Daniel Ramos; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by James Dalgleish

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