Referendum for Venezuelan Constitutional Reform to be in 2 Parts

Today Venezuela's National Assembly finalized its approval of the
constitutional reform proposal, which it formally submitted to the National
Electoral Council so it may start organizing a referendum on the reform. The
Assembly also decided that the reform would be voted on in two parts.

By Gregory Wilpert – Venezuelanalysis.com

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National Assembly President Celia Flores addresses representatives during the finalo approval of the constitutional reform proposal (Gregory Wilpert)
National Assembly President Celia Flores addresses representatives during the finalo approval of the constitutional reform proposal (Gregory Wilpert)
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Caracas, November 2, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)-
Today Venezuela's National Assembly finalized its approval of the
constitutional reform proposal, which it formally submitted to the National
Electoral Council so it may start organizing a referendum on the reform. The
Assembly also decided that the reform would be voted on in two parts, reversing
an earlier decision to submit the entire 69-article reform as one package.

Yesterday President Chavez made a surprise announcement that
he would favor dividing the reform proposal into two parts, with one part
containing the 33 reforms he had originally proposed and the other part
including the 36 articles the National Assembly (AN) had added to his proposal.
Previously Chavez and AN representatives had insisted that the entire reform
should be voted on as one package.

This morning the AN agreed to the president's suggestion,
but said that the constitution only allows separating out one third of the
articles in the entire reform proposal, which would be 23 articles. AN
president Celia Flores then proceeded to announce that the constitutional
reform commission proposes to have first part of the reform be Chavez's
original 33 articles, plus another 13 that the AN had proposed, with the
remaining 23 articles to be voted on in a second block. The full AN accepted Flores's proposal.

Part "A" of the reform proposal thus includes changes to Venezuela's
1999 constitution, such as:

  • the increase
    of the presidential term from 6 to 7 years and the removal of the two-term
    limit
  • the
    president's ability to name special development and military zones
  • gender
    parity in all candidacies for elected public office
  • prohibition
    against foreign funding of elections
  • strengthening
    of communal councils and their funding
  • lowering
    of the workweek to 36 hours
  • inclusion
    of Venezuelans of African descent, along with those of indigenous and
    European descent
  • new forms
    of collective property
  • the
    elimination of central bank autonomy
  • presidential
    power to determine internal political boundaries

Part "B" of the reform proposal, which includes only AN
proposals, includes items such as:

  • increased
    signature requirements for citizen-initiated referenda
  • states
    of emergency with the right to information removed
  • prohibition
    against discrimination based on health and sexual orientation
  • protection
    against losing one's home due to bankruptcy
  • student
    parity in university democracy
  • guaranteed
    free university education

The final approval of the 69-article reform followed two
weeks of at times intense and long debates. Even though all AN representatives
belong to the pro-Chavez camp, due to the opposition's boycott of the 2005 legislative
elections, the party Podemos rejected the procedure in which the reform was
discussed. Podemos representatives argued that the National Assembly was
introducing new reform articles in violation to the constitution because the
president had made the original reform proposal. Podemos challenged the process
in the Supreme Court, which has not yet issued a ruling on the matter.

Following the approval of the constitutional reform proposal
with a two-thirds majority, National Assembly representatives walked a block to
the National Electoral Council (CNE) late this afternoon, where they submitted
the reform. AN President Celia Flores was greeted there by CNE President
Tibisay Lucena, who thanked Flores for "this
full exercise in democracy."

Lucena had previously already announced that if the
CNE received the reform by today, the referendum would be scheduled for Sunday,
December 2. The campaign in favor and against the reform is officially allowed
to begin on Saturday, November 3rd. The opposition is launching its
campaign with a demonstration on that day and the pro-Chavez camp with their
own demonstration the following day, on Sunday.

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