Chavez gets constitutional reform backing from Venezuelan Congress
Oct 25, 2007, 18:49 GMT
Caracas - Venezuela's National Assembly has approved a proposal from President Hugo Chavez for a 'socialist' constitutional reform which allows among others the unlimited re- election of the president.
In the last of three readings in the National Assembly, the proposal was passed late Wednesday amid applause.
The controversial president said the constitutional reform - which citizens of the oil-rich country are yet to approve in a referendum - will install '21st century socialism' in Venezuela, and allow for a more effective fight against corruption.
According to media reports from Thursday, citing the unicameral Congress in Caracas, the original proposal made by left-wing populist Chavez was enlarged from 33 articles to 69.
Currently the Venezuelan president can only be re-elected once. However, Chavez himself became president in 1999. Within months a new Constitution was drawn up and approved in a referendum, so the count of presidential terms started anew. He was re-elected in 2000 and in 2006, this time with 63 per cent of the vote and for a term set to expire in 2012.
It is not clear if the clock would start ticking anew on presidential term limits if the reforms are approved in referendum.
Originally, Chavez wanted to modify 33 of a total of 350 articles in the Venezuelan Constitution, but Congress - controlled by Chavez supporters - added a further 36 modifications. The plan includes an enlargement of the presidential term - from six to seven years - and the end of Central Bank autonomy.
Chavez's party or allied organizations hold the 167 seats in the National Assembly, after the opposition chose to boycott legislative elections in 2005 in protest against the president. The opposition accuses Chavez of using a 'dictatorial style' of government.
The president is currently ruling by decree, and over the past year he has nationalized large portions of the country's energy industry.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur