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Venezuelans to vote in Feb 15 Chavez referendum

Latest update : 2009-01-16

Venezuelans will vote in a Feb. 15 referendum on whether to allow President Hugo Chavez to stay in office as long as he keeps winning elections, electoral authorities said.

AFP -Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Thursday congratulated lawmakers for approving his proposed constitutional amendment that, if passed in a referendum, would allow him unlimited re-election.

"I would like to congratulate the National Assembly," Chavez said a day after the parliamentary body stacked with his followers approved the amendment which would end term limits for the president and other politicians.

"Here is your (Assembly) president Cilia Flores, for the approval" of the constitutional amendment that was already approved in an initial vote last month.

The amendment, which would permit Chavez to put himself forward for the  2012 presidential election, near the end of his second term, now is to be submitted to a referendum, possibly February 15, when it could conceivably founder as a similar measure did in late 2007.

Chavez, who first sought unlimited re-election only for the president but recently asked it be extended to all elected officials in the country, has already said he plans run for president again if he is allowed.

Chavez, first elected president in 1998, was re-elected in 2006 for a term that ends in February 2013. Venezuela's constitution was changed in late 1999, allowing Chavez to run for an additional re-election.

Meanwhile, Chavez has manned an all-out campaign to convince Venezuelans his brand of socialism is what the country needs and can only be carried out fully if he remains in power.

Date created : 2009-01-16