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Bolivia’s Congress calls for early general elections this year

The step was considered necessary to avert a new political crisis as the ones that toppled two presidents in two years

Activists threatened with more protests if decision on the elections was postponedOn the first week of December, Bolivians will have the chance to renew the whole of the political system, as the Congress finally voted on Tuesday to call on early general elections. Lawmakers also passed a bill allowing the election of a special assembly to reform the constitution and hold a referendum on regional autonomies by July 2006.

Top MP's from different political orientations agreed to the new bill after weeks of dialogue, as considered the step "necessary" to avert a new political crisis as the ones that toppled two presidents in less than two years. Congress head Hormando Vaca Diez said that the agreement was a "historic step" that would lead the embattled South American nation into "a new period of harmony, generating new hopes."

The agreement comes only a few days after radical leaders threatened to renew protests if general elections were not called. It also came a month after the head of the Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodriguez, took over as caretaker president following weeks of protests over energy reform which led to the resignation of President Carlos Mesa.

According to local analysts, the decision of the interim President to keep his promise of calling early elections was "decisive" to encourage reluctant lawmakers. Sources from the caretaker administration had warned early this week that if a decision was not taken, they would adopt necessary measures to pave the way onto elections.

Despite the agreements reached, the way to December is long and will be full of obstacles in view of country's fragmented scenario. Indian leaders from poorer western areas of the country will insist on the nationalization of vast hydrocarbon resources, while the gas-rich eastern regions will keep seeking greater autonomy to exploit reserves through foreign investment.

On the photo: Activists threatened with more protests if decision was postponed

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