Friday, November 09, 2012

Extending term limits to allow Presidents to stand for more than one or two terms is not unconstitutional nor dictatorship nor undemocratic if it’s done democratically – whether it’s Chavez in Venezuela, Zelaya in Honduras or Kirchner in Argentina

It's ridiculous that amending a constitution by a democratic process is presented as unconstitutional by the right in Latin America and by people and governments in Europe and the US when commenting on Latin America.

They've done this with President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, who held elections for a Constituent Assembly which then drafted a new constitution and voted to approve it.

They did it with President Zelaya in Honduras, who was overthrown in a military coup after he tried to hold a referendum on whether to elect a constituent assembly to amend the constitution to let Presidents serve a second term if re-elected. Zelaya’s plan did not even allow for him to stand in the upcoming elections, as the referendum results would only be known after them. This was to revise a constitution which was written when military death squads were still massacring people in the 80s - and to allow Presidents to have a second term in office – the existing constitution limiting it to one term. Polls showed 55% of Hondurans supported it.

In a supposed move to “defend the constitution” members of the Honduran congress and military violated it a dozen times over by a military coup against the elected President that also involved jailing people without trial, torturing them and murdering them.

Now President Fernandez Kirchner’s proposals to amend the constitution to allow Presidents to stand for a third term in Argentina are being labelled “unconstitutional” and “dictatorship” too (1).

If it wasn't for the First Amendment to the US constitution there would be no right to freedom of speech in the US. No-one said it or any other amendment to the constitution was “unconstitutional” or a move towards dictatorship.

British and Australian Prime Ministers can be elected for any number of terms - yet no-one called Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair would-be dictators when they stood for their third terms as heads of government.

In the US the constitution was only amended in 1951 to restrict Presidents to two terms after Franklin D Roosevelt won four elections in a row , because he'd angered the wealthiest and the big banks and firms with the New Deal policies that actually benefited the majority of the population and so reduced bank and big company profits. There’s an obvious parallel with Chavez there.

Some Republican members of congress even proposed scrapping the term limit in the US during Reagan’s second term as President to allow him to run for a third.

(1) = 06 Nov 2012 ‘Fernández de Kirchner reforms spark Argentina protests’,

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