Caracas, October 31, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com) - As
Venezuela's National Assembly was putting the final touches to the proposed constitutional
reforms Tuesday, the National Electoral Council announced a series of measures
to facilitate and regulate the constitutional reform referendum. Since the final
constitutional reform proposal is to be passed by the National Assembly on
November 2 and a referendum is supposed to be scheduled within 30 days after
that, the referendum is likely to take place on December 2.
In addition to 350
electoral norms that must be followed by all groups campaigning in the
referendum, the Electoral Council (CNE) plan includes a proposal to both
opposition and pro-government political parties for a series of nationally
televised debates, to be moderated by the CNE that would be held over the four
Sundays leading up to the referendum.
The debate would involve
equal representation from groups opposing or supporting the reforms, including
among others, the opposition parties Movement towards Socialism, COPEI, A New
Era, Justice First, and pro-government parties and organizations such as Homeland
for All, the Zamora Command (group initiated by Chavez to campaign for a ‘Yes'
vote) and the Communist Party of Venezuela.
In a meeting with
party representatives yesterday, CNE rectors Victor Diez and Germán Yépez said
the four basic principles for the debates would be respect, plurality,
tolerance, and balance and that participants in the debates should abide by
these four principles.
Yépez emphasized that
the CNE views it as very important that the Venezuelan people know the content
and the effects of each of the 69 articles that comprise the proposed
In addition to the
initial 33 changes proposed by President Chavez on August 15, the National
Assembly has proposed changes to a further 36 articles. If adopted, the reforms
would allow for presidential reelection, "states of emergency" that would restrict
the right to information, as well as recognizing the social "missions," community
projects that Venezuela's poor in areas like health and education as part of
the country's state.
They also include a
series of other measures, such a reduction in the workweek to 36 hours, make it
easier for the government nationalize companies, and give workers in the
informal sector the right to social security. The reforms would also enshrine
the role of institutions of "popular power", which Chavez has said
would constitute the "the basic nucleus of the socialist state".
The CNE has also said
that the campaign can only be carried out by political parties and organizations
that register with the CNE. At present eighteen different citizens groups have
registered with the CNE to campaign in the referendum. The CNE has said the
organizations should group themselves in blocs campaigning for a ‘Yes' and ‘No'
While the CNE will
regulate campaign material in the referendum it will not regulate information
about the content of the reforms in the media.
However, in a meeting
with the editors of Venezuela's major daily newspapers Últimas Noticias, El
Mundo, Diario VEA, El Nacional, Notitarde, La Calle, El Aragueño, El Siglo, 2001, The Daily
Journal, and Panorama, on October 24, CNE director Tibisay Lucena said the role
of the media is to disseminate the content of the reform in a responsible and
In response to a
question by media representatives in relation to opinion columns, Lucena
confirmed these would not be regulated by the CNE, "We are not censuring
anyone. In Venezuela
there is freedom of expression and it will continue existing. Peoples opinions
are their opinions."
Additionally she said
the media could carry out opinion polls, and consult the population until seven
days before the referendum as is the established practice in Venezuelan
The CNE also carried out a test of Venezuela's electronic voting
system on October 27 and confirmed that it is functioning with normality.