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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 September 2007, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Assembly approves Chavez reforms
Hugo Chavez in the National Assembly, 15 August 2007
Mr Chavez has proposed an end to presidential term limits
Venezuela's national assembly has approved for the second time changes to the constitution that aim to make the country more socialist.

President Hugo Chavez has proposed a series of reforms that he says will give more power to the people.

His critics say they are a thinly veiled attempt to concentrate power.

Once the assembly, which is dominated by Mr Chavez's supporters, agrees on a third and final draft, the reforms will be put to a national referendum.

All the seats in the assembly are held by pro-Chavez parties as a result of an opposition election boycott in 2005.

Among the main changes to the constitution proposed by Mr Chavez last month were:

  • Removing term limits for the presidency, and extending the term of office from six years to seven

  • Bringing in a maximum six-hour working day

  • Increasing presidential control over the central bank
  • Strengthening state economic powers, allowing the government to control assets of private companies before a court grants an expropriation order.

Mr Chavez is also giving a formal role to what he calls "people power", says the BBC's James Ingham in Caracas.

Community councils will be able to apply to the president's commissions for funds and manage those funds themselves for projects that they believe are important.

Collective property will also be recognised within community groups and cooperatives will play more of a role in the economy.

Re-election

Opponents have voiced concern at reforms which they say are forcing everyone into one way of doing things.

Mr Chavez's critics are also against the change to a number of terms a president can serve.

Current rules mean Mr Chavez is unable to seek re-election and will have to step down when his term ends in 2012.

After being overwhelmingly re-elected last year, Mr Chavez has pushed for key changes to bring about what he calls a 21st Century socialist revolution.

The opposition has questioned the president's intentions, arguing a new constitution is not needed as the current one was only drafted eight years ago.

Nevertheless, recent opinion polls suggest Mr Chavez is likely to win a referendum on his proposed reforms.


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