Bolivia's Morales claims victory in disputed election

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La Paz (AFP)

Bolivian President Evo Morales declared victory Thursday in elections whose disputed results have triggered violent unrest and a general strike.

Morales said that after Sunday's voting, with 98 percent of the ballots counted, he has 46.83 percent, against 36.7 percent for his closest rival, the centrist Carlos Mesa.

A margin of at least 10 points would mean outright victory and no runoff.

"We won in the first round," Morales, who is seeking a fourth straight term, told a news conference. He called this "good news."

Mesa said Wednesday he would not recognize results tallied by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which he accused of manipulating the count to help the leftist Morales win.

Mesa is insisting there be a runoff between him and the president, and called on supporters to keep protesting in the streets of this resource-rich but poor South American country.