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Bolivia confirms presidential election for October 18 despite calls for earlier date

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia's caretaker government on Thursday enacted a law that mandates a delayed presidential election will be held on Oct. 18 as scheduled, despite opposition calls for it to be moved earlier.

The law would impose criminal penalties on any effort to change the date.

Tensions are brewing as the South American nation heads for a re-run of an October 2019 disputed vote that sparked protests and prompted former leader Evo Morales to resign.

Bolivia's electoral tribunal in July pushed the election to Oct. 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but supporters of Morales are demanding the vote be held on Sept. 6. The dispute has prompted protests and roadblocks.

The new law was swiftly rejected by the powerful Bolivian Workers’ Center (COB), an umbrella group representing various industries. Top COB leader Juan Carlos Huarachi said the law had "never been agreed with the people."

The United Nations and the European Union, in a joint statement, expressed support for the October date.

The election's main contenders are Morales' Movement for Socialism (MAS) party and a fragmented conservative opposition, including interim President Jeanine Anez, who took over in a power vacuum last year promising swift new election.

(Reporting by Reuters TV and Daniel Ramos; writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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