[JURIST] Venezuelans began voting Sunday on a proposed constitutional amendment [text, in Spanish] that would eliminate presidential term limits in the country. The amendment, which would allow President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to seek re-election in 2012, was passed [JURIST report] by the Venezuelan National Assembly [official website, in Spanish] last month, but must pass the referendum before taking effect. A similar amendment was among constitutional reforms rejected by voters [JURIST report] in a 2007 referendum, but a January poll by Datanalisis [corporate website, in Spanish] showed that a small majority of likely voters now favor the amendment.
Voters in the country have been strongly divided over the measure. Earlier this month, thousands gathered in Caracas to protest [JURIST report] the amendment, but supporters submitted a petition signed by almost five million people [JURIST report] endorsing the amendment to the National Assembly late last year. Opposition politicians have accused Chavez [JURIST report] of using the constitutional reforms to consolidate his power.