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Bolivia's Morales calls for new elections after OAS audit
Bolivian President Evo Morales addresses reporters after the release of the OAS preliminary report [Reuters]
DAILYNEWS Bolivian President Evo Morales has said he will call for new elections after the Organization of American States (OAS) released a report saying that a disputed vote last month that sparked protests should be annulled due to irregularities.
In a news conference on Sunday, Morales also said he would replace the members of the electoral board which came under fire after being mired in widespread allegations of electoral fraud in the October 20 election.
"In the following hours, in agreement with all political forces, [we] will establish the [steps] for this [to take place]," he said.
No other details were immediately available.
Morales's comments came shortly after OAS said in a preliminary report issued on Sunday it could not verify the result after founding "clear manipulations" during an audit of the vote.
"The manipulations to the computer system are of such magnitude that they must be deeply investigated by the Bolivian state to get to the bottom of and assign responsibility in this serious case," the organisation said.
OAS added it was not statistically likely that Morales had secured the 10 percentage point margin of victory needed to win outright and recommended Bolivia use new electoral authorities for any new vote.
"The first round of the elections held on October 20 must be annulled and the electoral process must begin again, with the first round taking place as soon as there are new conditions that give new guarantees for it to take place, including a newly composed electoral body," OAS said in a press release.
Morales was declared the winner of the October election with a lead of just over 10 percentage points over his main rival Carlos Mesa, giving him an outright win. But a near 24-hour halt in the count sparked accusations of fraud and led to protests, strikes and roadblocks.

Anti-government protests 

The announcements came a day after police officers were seen joining anti-government protests and the military said it would not "confront the people" over the issue.
In a Twitter post in the early hours of Saturday, Morales accused the opposition of organising a coup.
At a news conference later at the base, the president appealed to Bolivia's political factions to hold talks. He said the four parties that received the most votes in the nine-candidate election should sit down with "an open agenda to pacify Bolivia". 
Morales said he would also invite to the talks international organisations including the Vatican, the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS). 
Mesa rejected the suggestion to hold talks. 
"I have nothing to negotiate with Evo Morales, who has lost all grip on reality," he said.
Meanwhile, demonstrators on Saturday burst into the offices of the media outlets Bolivia TV and Radio Patria Nueva and forced employees to leave, accusing them of serving the interests of Morales, AFP news agency quoted Ivan Maldonado, director of Radio Patria Nueva, as saying.
Morales denounced the seizure. "They say they defend democracy, but they behave as if they were in a dictatorship," he wrote on Twitter.
A radio station run by a farmers' union was also seized by protesters, Morales said.    
The president also accused members of the opposition of setting fire to the home of his sister in the southern city of Oruro as part of what he called an effort to overthrow him.

'Complicated moment'

Jorge Dulon, a political analyst at the Catholic University of Bolivia in La Paz, told Associated Press news agency that Morales faces "the most complicated moment" in his 14 years in power and warned that the situation could deteriorate.
Separately, a number of left-leaning leaders in the region backed Morales on Saturday, including those of Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico and Argentina's president-elect Alberto Fernandez.
"We denounce before the world the attempted coup d'etat in progress against the brother President Evo Morales," Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro wrote on Twitter.
The European Union issued a statement on Saturday calling for demonstrators to remain peaceful, saying a solution "can be achieved through peaceful negotiations".
Michael Kozak, US assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, wrote on Twitter:  "Bolivian citizens deserve credible and transparent elections that they can trust to represent their will. We urge all actors to avoid violence and ensure that the forces of public order continue to exercise restraint."
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