The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, May 31, 2004

A referendum grows in Venezuela, after all

And Jimmy Carter says everything's fine - so that's all right then...

The detail makes Jarndyce v Jarndyce look like traffic court [1]. The bare bones seem to be that Article 72 of the Constitution says that any elected official can be recalled once he's served half of his term, by a referendum called for by at least 20% of the voters for his constituency. President Hugo Chávez took office on February 3 1999.

Article 233 says that, if a President is ousted by, inter alia, a referendum vote, a new election is to be held. Fine. Except that there is an exception: if the ouster occurs within the final two years of the alloted six year term, there is no election, and the Vice President serves out the balance of the term.

(The Vice President is José Vicente Rangel - from his bio, he's not exactly a friend of the opposition!)

Now, the last presidential election was held on June 30 2000; I'm not sure when Chávez took office pursuant to that election. The referendum is due to be held on August 8; I suspect that will push Chávez more than four years into his current term.

Which leaves the puzzle: the Constitution - which came into force on January 1 2000, I think, provides a twelve month window for a recall referendum to force a new presidential election: between the end of the third year (half way through the mandate) and the end of the fourth.

It looks like, if Chávez took office pursuant to the 2000 election on, say, August 1 2000, Rangel would serve out his term; if on August 10 2000, the opposition would get new elections.

Crazy! I can't imagine it's as simple as that (it does give a very good reason why Chávez would have played for time with his friends in the electoral commission, though).

Question is, will I be intrigued enough to do some spadework? (Don't hold your breath.)

  1. If I were going to get into the detail, I'd start with this page - with what looks like a couple of dozen good links to reports and the like, many of which seem referendum-related, and some in English.

MORE (June 6)

It seems that the date is indeed critical: according to a piece today in Clarín of Buenos Aires, the cut-off date is August 19: if the recall election is held after that date, the Vice President would take over if Chávez lost.

The opposition want the current planned date of August 8 to be persisted with. Clarín says Chávez may be planning to resign to forestall the referendum: that way, apparently, elections can be called at which the old goat can stand. (I haven't checked that out!)

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