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Bolivia's Morales chides OAS, defends disputed vote win

Credit: REUTERS/UESLEI MARCELINO

Bolivian President Evo Morales rebuked a regional election observer mission on Thursday for questioning the legitimacy of what he again insisted was an outright win for him in the first round of a disputed election.

Recasts with comments on OAS

LA PAZ, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Bolivian President Evo Morales rebuked a regional election observer mission on Thursday for questioning the legitimacy of what he again insisted was an outright win for him in the first round of a disputed election.

The leftist leader has edged to a decisive 10-point lead over his main rival in the count following Sunday's election, which has brought protests and marches in main cities.

At a defiant news conference, Morales said Organization of American States (OAS) observers had slandered him by raising what it called "serious doubts" about the election.

The local OAS team on Thursday recommended that Bolivia convene a second-round vote after an unexpected interruption to the count and a sudden shift in Morales' favor triggered allegations of vote-rigging by the opposition.

"I don't want to think the OAS mission is already taking part in a coup d'etat," Morales said, reiterating his accusation that main rival Carlos Mesa was trying to steal his victory.

"There's a coup d'etat (orchestrated) internally and externally. The OAS as a whole should evaluate themselves and the mission it sent as well."

The OAS mission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Morales, who has governed for almost 14 years, said he would welcome an audit of the final count by the OAS but appeared to reject its condition that its conclusions be legally-binding.

On Thursday morning, the count showed Morales had 46.9% of the vote with nearly 99% of ballots counted - putting him 10 points ahead of Mesa. The winner needs 40% of votes plus a 10-point lead to win outright and avoid a Dec. 15 second round.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by David Clarke and Andrew Cawthorne)

((mitra.taj@thomsonreuters.com; +51 (1) 277-9550; Reuters Messaging: mitra.taj.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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