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VENEZUELA APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT WITH 54.86% OF THE VOTES

 

According to the third official report about this Sunday’s referendum for a constitutional amendment from the National Electoral Council (CNE), of the 11,724,224 votes counted so far, 6,319,636, or 54.86%, were for the Yes vote, while 5,198,006 votes, 45.13%, were for the No vote.

Tibisay Lucena, President of the CNE, in a Tuesday press conference with CNE Directors Sandra Oblitas, Vicente Díaz and Germán Yépez, reported the referendum’s results with 99.75% of votes counted.

She said an event announcing the final results of the referendum is scheduled for Wednesday, February 18th.  The CNE is currently waiting for results from 347 automated polling stations and 0.35% of the manual vote, the majority of which come from isolated areas as well as from Venezuelan Embassies and Consulates around the world.

Lucena noted that so far in the process, 11,724,224 votes have been tallied; equivalent to an abstention rate of 30.08%.
Regarding the performance of the technology platform and the electoral system on Sunday, Lucena indicated that 34,332 voting machines were installed, of which 34,248, or 99.75%, have transmitted their results.

Regarding the number of voting machines there were replaced during the elections, she explained that only 6.65% were substituted, a number which is lower than what was registered during the November 23rd elections, when 7.8% of machines were replaced.

Radio Nacional de Venezuela
February 17th, 2009.

 

BASIC MANUAL ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

Democratic Gain
The Constitutional Amendment proposes the reformulation of Article 230 by eliminating the restriction preventing the people from giving continuity to a social, political project under a president they considered capable to accomplish it; it also allows any Venezuelan citizen elected as President to be consecutively re-elected.

Likewise, consecutive postulations could be extended to governors, mayors, and congresspeople, as President Chávez proposed it on January 5 in order to widen the democratic scope of the Constitutional Amendment.

The Articles
The approval of consecutive postulation for people-elected posts is possible with the modification of the following articles:

Article 230: The presidential term is six years. The President of the Republic may be re-elected, immediately and only once, to an additional term.

Article 160: Governors are in charge of the government and administration of each state. Governors must be Venezuelans over the age of 25 who are not members of the clergy. Governors shall be elected for a term of four years by a majority vote. Governors can be re-elected, immediately and only once, to an additional term.

Article 162: Legislative Authority shall be exercised in each State by a Legislative Council, consisting of no more than fifteen and no less than seven members, who shall proportionally represent the population of the state and the municipalities. The Legislative Council shall have the following powers:
(1) To legislate matters within a state’s competence.
(2) To pass the state’s Budget Law.
(3) Any other vested in it by this Constitution or by the law.

The requirements for being a member of the Legislative Council, the obligation to give a yearly accounting, and immunity within the territorial jurisdiction, shall be governed by the rules established by this Constitution for deputies of the National Assembly, insofar as applicable. State legislators shall be elected for a four-year term; they can be re-elected to only two terms. The organization and functioning of the Legislative Council shall be regulated by the national law.

Article 174: Mayors shall be in charge of the government and administration of a municipality, and shall also be the heads of the civil government. Mayors must be Venezuelans over the age of 25, and they must not be members of the clergy. Mayors shall be elected for a term of four years by majority vote; s/he can be re-elected, immediately and only once, to an additional term.

Article 192: Congresspeople of the National Assembly shall hold office for a term of five years; they can be re-elected to only two consecutive terms.

The Proposal and the Change
The Constitutional Amendment consists on the elimination of the phrase “immediately and only once,” so that any President can run for this post as many times as s/he desires to be re-elected.

A similar change would be made to the other 4 articles related to people-elected posts.

The path to follow
The Constitutional Amendment can be requested via:

1) Presidential Decree promoting the call for a referendum by the National Electoral Council (CNE), if it considers the proposal is appropriate and fulfills the requirements.

2) The people’s promotion: this option is based on the support of 15 percent of the voters registered in the Permanent Electoral Register (REP); in this case, the CNE must develop a methodology to collect the necessary signatures, verify them and call for a referendum, and:

3) The approval of 30 percent of the congresspeople of the National Assembly: The proposal is presented and discussed at the Parliament; the procedure is the same the National Assembly applies when making a law. This is the reason why two discussions (one general and one article by article) are held. Then, it is passed to the CNE, which is in charge of calling for a referendum.

Precedents in Venezuela
Before the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was approved in 1999, the Venezuelan history registered 26 Constitutions, which were subjected to changes; the most recent of them was made in 1961.

The 1961 Constitution was drafted and approved by congresspeople and senators who were members of the Democratic Action (<i>Acción Democrática</i>, AD) party and the Social Christian party (Copei); these parties were majority in the Parliament, and, like former processes, this Constitution was not subjected to the people’s will.

From 1961 to 1998, the 1961 Constitution underwent two changes made by Constitutional Amendments: the first was approved on May 9, 1973 and enacted by former President Rafael Caldera; and the second was approved on March 16, 1983 during the government led by Luis Herrera Campins. 

A glance to the world
In the European Union, among its 27 members, all of which include the possibility of re-election for heads of State and Government, there are 10 countries restricting and 17 allowing the continuous re-election, and this is not a reason to consider these nations authoritarian or dictatorial governments.

In France , Jacques Chirac was president for two consecutive terms (1995-2007, since in 1997 the presidential term was changed from seven to five years). Chirac did not run for a third term; the Constitution allowed him to run for president as many times as he wanted, though.

The French Constitution was changed in July 2008, and it now limits the presidential re-election to only one additional term.

Great Britain allows the Prime Minister to have the option to indefinitely run for this post. A recent reference is Tony Blair, who was Prime Minister for 10 years. He first took office in 1997, and he was re-elected in 2001 and 2005, thus governing that nation for three consecutive terms until he resigned his post in June 2007.

What’s next?
Once the National Assembly approves the proposal of the Constitutional Amendment in a first and a second discussion, the CNE will be in charge of finishing the details to hold a referendum to approve the amendment on a convenient date. 

How do the people participate? 
After fulfilling the requirements established by the law, the CNE must call for a referendum, and Venezuelans will cast their votes and decide if the Constitutional Amendment is or is not approved.

Final Result 
All the requirements are handed over to the CNE, and after the referendum, the proposal will or will not be approved. Depending on the results, Venezuelans have to wait for the next presidential election, scheduled for the year 2012, to ratify President Hugo Chávez or elect a different candidate running for president.

Likewise, they will have to wait for the regional elections to carry out the changes made to the Constitution.

Media Lies
The Venezuelan and international media opposing President Chávez have developed a disinformation campaign to confuse the people. This is the reason why we have to make clear that:

The modification of Article 230 is valid for any President who decides to run for this post in re-elections; therefore, it will not be the sole right of the current President.

The proposed constitutional amendment does not guarantee the automatic re-election of President Hugo Chávez, who must participate in an electoral process together with those candidates running for president in the 2012 elections.
Unlike the December 2, 2007 reform, which proposed the change of 69 articles, the Constitutional Amendment proposes a small modification, without altering the fundamental principles of the Constitution.

The legitimacy of the presidential proposal as a democratic process is established in Article 340, which states that “The purpose of an amendment is to add to or modify one or more articles of the Constitution, without altering the fundamental structure of the same. 

More Democracy
The current Constitution provides for the recall referendum as a democratic mechanism for the people to recall a president, governor or mayor once half of the term to which they have been elected has elapsed. If we take into account the thesis of the Good Government, whoever who makes a good job stays in office, if not, s/he has to leave.

Ministry of People’s Power for Communication and Information
January 5, 2009

 

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