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Venezuelans queued outside of polling stations today, 15th February, to vote on a constitutional amendment that will allow President Hugo Chávez to run for re-election after 2012.
Seventeen million Venezuelans were registered to vote in today’s referendum. The National Electoral Council (CNE) has reported a high turnout. The polling stations were opened at 8am local time and closed at 6pm.
The people voted today on an amendment that will remove the current term limits on elected positions. Currently, the president is limited to two six-year terms. For Chávez, this means that his term as president would be over in 2012. A vote in favour of this referendum would allow the president, as well as governors, mayors and other elected officials, to run for limitless re-election.
Close results are expected, but President Chávez did have the advantage on 12th February, when he closed his state-wide “Yes” campaign.
Chávez has said that he would like to stay in office until 2021, if he can continue to win elections. He described how today’s vote would “decide [his] political destiny”. He also added that, “We shall respect the results, whatever they may be.”
A proposal to end the current term limits was proposed, among 68 other constitutional changes, in a 2007 referendum. However, this referendum was rejected and the amendments were not passed.