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Bolivia Congress approves referendum on new constitution

[JURIST] The National Congress of Bolivia [official website, in Spanish] narrowly approved a national referendum on a new constitution [JURIST news archive] Thursday after members of the Bolivian Constitutional Assembly [official website, in Spanish] approved the draft constitution [JURIST report] in December. The new constitution, supported by Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile], would give the president more power over natural resources, collapse Bolivia's legislature into one body, and allow the president to seek election for two consecutive five-year terms. Morales supporters rallying outside of the congressional building Thursday prevented many of the opponents of the draft constitution from entering the building and participating in the vote.

The Constitutional Assembly first gave preliminary approval [JURIST report] to the new draft constitution in November 2007 amid protests that the constitution gave the president indefinite power; the current constitution [text, in Spanish] prohibits a president from seeking election to consecutive terms. The Constitutional Assembly was suspended in September after violent protests by students and opposition parties, and governors from the country's six wealthiest provinces have consistently opposed the reforms [JURIST reports]. AP has more.

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