Venezuela's constitutional reform referendum fails to pass

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hugo Chávez votes on December 2, 2007.
Image: Wilson Dias/ABr.

Venezuelan voters rejected a referendum on changes to the constitution. The chief of the National Electoral Council said it was rejected by a margin of 51% to 49%.

The referendum vote on sweeping reforms to the constitution would have allowed Hugo Chávez to run for reelection indefinitely, control Venezuela's foreign currency reserves, appoint loyalists over regional elected officials and expand presidential powers in the case of an emergency. It would also have established a maximum six-hour working day and 36-hour working week, cut the voting age from 18 to 16, and expand social security benefits to workers in the informal economy.

Chávez called the vote a "photo finish," but swiftly conceded defeat. He vowed to "continue in the battle to build socialism" and though the reforms had failed "for now," they were "still alive." The vote marks the first setback at the ballot box for Chávez, since he came to power in 1999.

Raul Baduel, a former defense minister in Venezuela, now an emerging critic of the leader, said Chávez had manipulated the public's feelings in an effort to pass the reforms, which would also have limited citizens' rights were a state of emergency to be declared.