[JURIST] Venezuelans have rejected sweeping constitutional reforms [JURIST news archive] proposed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile] by a narrow margin of 51 to 49 percent, preliminary results of Sunday's constitutional referendum [JURIST report] showed on Monday. Chavez, accepting his first electoral defeat, acknowledged that his proposed reforms - which would have allowed him to stand indefinitely for re-election, handpick local leaders under a new political map, create new types of communal property, and to suspend civil liberties during states of emergency - was "quite profound and intense," and noted that he may have been too ambitious in his proposals.
Chavez has touted the constitutional changes as necessary to advance Venezuela's socialist revolution. Human Rights Watch has warned that the reforms would violate international law [press release] by allowing the president to suspend due process guarantees during times of emergency, and UN experts have flagged concerns over the independence of the judiciary under the proposed amendments. Opposition politicians have accused Chavez [JURIST report] of using the constitutional reforms to consolidate his power. Although the Venezuelan National Assembly approved [JURIST report] the reforms by a 160-7 vote earlier this month, several prominent figures, including former Venezuelan Defense Minister Raul Baduel, have spoken out against the reforms [JURIST report]. AP has more. From Caracas, El Universal has local coverage.