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Chávez Proposes Constitutional Amendment Include Governors and Mayors

Mérida, January 5, 2009 (— Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for the proposed amendment to the constitution that would eliminate a two-term limit to the presidency to be extended to include other elected positions. Meanwhile, over two polls publicized over the weekend showed a majority support for the amendment.

In a meeting of the national command of the campaign in favor of the amendment, called “Simon Bolivar Campaign,” Chávez called for the proposal for eliminating the two term presidential limit to also include any popularly elected positions such as mayors, governors, and legislators.

“This will mark a rupturing with the old democracy. In the background we are planning a break with a democratic model, called classical liberalism.”

Chavez emphasized that re-election would have to depend on the positive governance of each governor, and that the proposal “is an extension of the right of the people to elect without restrictions and to nominate who they want.”

Albert Muller Rojas, vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) supported the proposal, saying that it would guarantee more efficient governing.

Chavez also announced that a new phase of signature collection and debate around the amendment would start on January 9.

“The battle must continue. This phase will last until January 16 with the presentation of the amendment proposal to the National Electoral Council.”

On December 18 last year, a majority of the national assembly approved the amendment of article 230 to allow for continuous re-election of the president, in the first reading. The second reading will begin this week.

Poll results

55.1% of Venezuelans would vote for the amendment to the constitution to get rid of a two term presidential limit, Jesse Chacon, minister for communication and information, stated in a press conference on Sunday, citing statistics from the daily newspaper Panorama.

As well, he noted, 51.4% of Venezuelans believe the general situation is good, and 44.2% feel it is bad. Chacon then quoted a study carried out by the Venezuelan National Institute of Data Analysis (IVAD), which stated that 69.4% of Venezuelans think that Chavez’s performance has been good, and 27.2% think it has not been good.

“This is one of the highest levels of approval that the president has had in the last five years,” Chacon said.

The IVAD poll was conducted from December 12 to 22. 48.07% of respondents said that they agreed with the constitutional amendment and 9.92% were unsure. 54.5% would vote for Chavez in a presidential election and 35% would not.

William Lara, a leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and governor of the state of Guarico, speaking at an assembly of social movements on the weekend, said that those supporting the amendment should be at least two million more than those against it. He said it was not a question of winning, but rather of winning by a large amount, in order to show the large support of the revolution and the president.

Another poll, conducted by the Social Research Group 21 (GIS XXI), which is directed by Chávez’s former finance minister Nelson Merentes, also confirmed a victory for the “yes” vote to the amendment. The study was conducted between December 1 and 19, with 9,400 from 22 states across the country. According to Merentes, the error margin is 2.19%.

In response to the question “Would you vote in favor or against the constitutional amendment?” 51.7% said they would vote in favor, and 39.1% said they would vote against. 5.3% said they did not know or preferred not to respond to the question.

69.9% expressed agreement with the statement “If the people support him, president Chavez has the right to run as a candidate in elections as many times as he wants.” 30% disagreed.

On the governance of Chavez, 74.9% categorized it as very good or good, while 23.9% categorized it as very bad or bad.

Finally, regarding the Venezuelan political situation, 41.4% considered it good, 23.4% considered it neither good nor bad, and 27.7% considered it bad.

An information campaign

Responding to opposition concerns, Chacon said he did not believe the world economic crisis would postpone the date of voting for the amendment, saying that it would be a simple process of voting “yes” or “no.”

“I don’t think [the voting process] will affect our social and economic work,” he said, reiterating that it would be the National Electoral Council (CNE), and not the government, which will decide on the referendum date.

“There isn’t anyone who can show today that the [constitutional reform voted down in November 2007] was rejected because of this [particular amendment].” Chacon said he felt that the problem for the opposition is not whether the amendment is legal or not, but that they were concerned that if there was a presidential election today, Chavez would win.

“The amendment is, for many of us who believe in it, a broadening of rights. Its simply to remove a restriction to the candidature of president… and it’s a widening of the right of the Venezuelans to elect who we feel like when we feel like it, as is the situation in many societies of the world,” he said.

Chacon highlighted various countries in Europe that have the ability to indefinitely re-elect a president and that he argued raised their standard of living through continuity in political policy.

However, he said, it will be necessary to intensify the information campaign about the amendment as “there are Venezuelans who really believe that if they vote ‘yes’ for the amendment they are electing Chavez as emperor forever and that’s a lie.”

Published on Jan 5th 2009 at 10.49pm