Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez presents his proposal for constitutional reforms. The opposition cries foul
Despite the fears and concern of the Venezuelan opposition, President Hugo Chavez
carried out what he had promised: he presented the project for the reform of the
Constitution. If the project is successful, it will be possible for Chavez to
stand for the presidential elections and to be re-elected as many times as he
He said he would and he did. The Venezuelan Constitution, patched up in 1999,
will be modified again. The many and important proposals of constitutional reform
infuriated the opposition, who made it known that if the reforms get through,
President Chavez might become a “leader for life” and “misuse the power” in his
hands. The accusations were immediately rejected by Chavez himself, who, in his
speech in front of the National Assembly stated once again that “we all know this
is not the case. I doubt there is any country in the world with a democracy more
alive than the one we enjoy in Venezuela today”. The Venezuelan political analysts,
and some jurists, are said to be perplexed at the proposals presented by Chavez:
according to them a great “constitutional fraud” might be about to take place.
The debate, however, is still open even if the political hopes of the opposition
are nil. The Venezuelan parliament is 100 percent under the control of the coalition
that supports the bolivarian leader, who will have no difficulty in having his
proposals accepted. As a first step the former lieutenant-colonel will want to
set his hand to article 230 of the Constitution, which establishes that the term
in office of the head of State should last 6 years. Chavez’ will is to eliminate
the limits because he maintains that “it is the sovereignty of the people that
must decide how long their representative must represent them for”. But this is
only applicable, and will only be applied, to the role of the president. The term
of office of mayors and governors will remain unchanged.
Another fundamental aspect covered by the presidential proposal is the matter
of the signatures necessary to present a “revoking” referendum. At the moment
the signatures of 20 percent of the voting population are necessary to present
the referendum. With Chavez’ proposal the limit is raised by ten points, and passes
from 20 to 30 percent. The last point of the constitutional reform strongly wanted
by Chavez concerns the economical model to be followed: a stop to capitalism and
the start of a new historical-economical phase that will lead the Country towards
“XXI century socialism”. But a stop also to government aid in boosting private
enterprises: if the reform goes through, the precedence will be given to the development
and strengthening of collective properties.
Here are the rules. Modifications to the Constitution, in Venezuela, are entirely
possible. And article 342 lays down the rules that must be followed to carry out
the changes. First, it must be remembered that the procedures to follow are three.
The first one concerns the analysis of the project as a whole. Then the parliament
will check the reform proposal in detail, and the third phase, parliamentary discussion,
will discuss the reform article by article.
Two thirds of the votes of the parliament are necessary for a reform to be considered
And last, once it has been approved by the parliament, the reform will have to
be submitted to popular referendum within 30 days and no later from its approval.
According to a simple calculation carried out by the Assembly, if the job of
studying the Constitutional modifications were to start in the next few days,
the procedures might be completed by January 2008.