Bolivia's interim President Eduardo Rodriguez has imposed new rules on distributing congress seats to end a row threatening forthcoming elections. He also decreed that the poll should be held on 18 December, saying he had to intervene to safeguard democracy.
The dispute over seats has already led to the vote being postponed once. The election was called earlier this year as a way of ending street protests that had led to the resignation of President Carlos Mesa in June.
"These are difficult times and we are doing this to saving democracy, and we hope the citizens will follow us in this effort," said Mr Rodriguez. Candidates running for the presidency welcomed the announcement.
Left-wing leader Evo Morales - who is ahead in the opinion polls - said it would guarantee a change in Bolivian politics that the population had been clamouring for.
"The government has made a political, legitimate, and democratic decision," he said. His closest election rival, the US-educated engineer Jorge Quiroga, said: "We hope now we can focus people's attention now on our proposals, explain them, and get to the polls with all Bolivians."
The row broke out in August, when the constitutional court ruled that, based on the 2001 census, the wealthier eastern part of Bolivia deserved more seats in congress. The decision re-ignited regional tensions. Congress held weeks of debates about how to implement the ruling, but missed the deadline amid boycotts by some deputies and threats of strikes in some provinces. Now all except one province have said they back the new proposals, which are based on the latest census. The remaining region - the economically important Santa Cruz - is expected to announce its response on Wednesday. Under Tuesday's decree, Santa Cruz will gain three seats in the 130-member House of Deputies and Cochabamba will gain one.
The province of La Paz along with the poorer Potosi and Oruro will lose seats. Mr Rodriguez has said that he will step down in January even if an election has not been held, leaving the possibility of a power vacuum.
The interim government had hoped the election would help ease divisions over how to develop the energy industry, and how much autonomy Bolivia's diverse provinces should enjoy, reports BBC news. I.L.
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