LA PAZ - Bolivian President Evo Morales ended a five-day hunger strike on Tuesday after lawmakers approved a controversial electoral law that allows him to run for a second term and seek a majority in Congress.
The law sets presidential and legislative elections for December 6, assigns a small number of congressional seats to poor, indigenous areas where Morales is popular, and allows Bolivians living abroad to vote for the first time.
Morales began his hunger strike last Thursday after opposition lawmakers blocked a vote on the bill. He slept for five nights on a mattress on the floor of the presidential palace, surrounded by supporters and refusing to eat.
But he also made concessions on the law and his opponents allowed its approval early on Tuesday. Both sides claimed victory in the standoff, and state media reported that Morales lost nearly 9 pounds (4 kg).
Recent polls show that Morales, Bolivia's first Indian president and a fierce critic of Washington, will likely win re-election, and he said he also wants a clear majority in both houses of Congress.
A serious problem we have is that there are 27 seats in the Senate, and the (ruling party) has only 10 ... Comrades, we are going to put an end to that on December 6, a weary-looking Morales told hundreds of cheering supporters in front of the presidential palace in La Paz.
We have to win with 60 or 70 percent, he added.
Opposition senators had rejected the bill, saying it could tip the balance of power in Morales' favor.
Morales' ruling Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS, party had enough votes in Congress to pass the law, but conservative lawmakers blocked it for nearly a week by refusing to attend a special bicameral session and preventing a quorum.
The MAS controls the lower chamber, but opposition parties have used their slim majority in the Senate to block dozens of government-proposed reforms.
The government was able to win approval after Morales ordered officials to compile a new electoral register, defusing tensions with opposition leaders who had said that he could exploit flaws in the existing census to rig the vote.
In another concession to the opposition, Morales reduced the number of seats in Congress to be assigned to minority indigenous groups from 14 to 7.
We've contributed with a series of proposals to ensure that democracy, freedom and above all the right of all Bolivians to participate in clean elections be respected, said opposition lawmaker Oscar Ortiz, who heads the Senate.
Morales has nationalized energy and telecommunications companies and has increased social spending, using some of the extra revenues the state now has to fund social programs.
The cornerstone of his pro-indigenous and leftist policies is a new constitution, which was approved in a referendum in January with more than 60 percent support.
In his three years in office Morales has not been able to heal a deep ethnic and geographical divide between the Andean west, where Aymara and Quechua Indians revere him, and the east where mixed-race people largely support his rivals.
However, he won sweeping victories in a recall vote in August and the constitutional referendum in January, thanks chiefly to strong support from Indians, who make up around 60 percent of the population.