Chavez defeated over reform vote


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Mar 21, 2007
Wakati chama cha Putin kimejipatia ushindi mkubwa Russia mambo kwa Chavez yameenda tofauti na matarajio ya wengi ikiwemo yeye mwenyewe.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has narrowly lost a referendum on controversial constitutional changes.

Voters rejected the raft of reforms by a margin of 51% to 49%, the chief of the National Electoral Council said.

Mr Chavez described the defeat as a "photo finish", and urged followers not to turn it into a point of conflict.

Correspondents say the opposition could barely hide their delight and that the victory will put a brake on Mr Chavez's self-styled "Socialist revolution".

Celebrations by the opposition began almost immediately in the capital, Caracas, with activists cheering, beeping car horns and waving flags.

Mr Chavez swiftly conceded and urged the opposition to show restraint.

"To those who voted against my proposal, I thank them and congratulate them," he said. "I ask all of you to go home, know how to handle your victory."

He insisted that he would "continue in the battle to build socialism".

"Don't feel sad," he told his supporters, saying there were "microscopic differences" between the "yes" and "no" options.

He said the reforms had failed "for now" but they were "still alive".

'Too much power'

The result marks the president's first electoral reverse since he won power in an election in 1998.

Indefinite re-election of president, term increased from 6 to 7 years
Central Bank autonomy ended
Structure of country's administrative districts reorganised
Maximum working day cut from 8 hours to 6
Voting age lowered from 18 to 16
Social security benefits extended to workers in informal sector

Since then he has set about introducing sweeping changes in the country's laws aimed at redistributing Venezuela's oil wealth to poorer farmers in rural areas.

Just a year ago, he was re-elected with 63% of the vote.

With his constitutional reform proposals, Mr Chavez was seeking an end to presidential term limits and the removal of the Central Bank's autonomy.

Having lost the vote, the current rules state that he will have to stand down in 2013.

The main opposition parties had claimed during the referendum campaign that Mr Chavez was seeking to give himself too much power, and was trying to establish a dictatorship.

Mr Chavez said the package of reforms was necessary to "construct a new socialist economy".

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/12/03 07:19:22 GMT
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