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Bolivia court halts referendum on new constitution

[JURIST] Bolivia's National Electoral Court [official website] on Friday blocked a national referendum [JURIST report] on the country's new draft constitution which was to take place on May 4. The new constitution, supported by Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile], was passed [JURIST report] by the Bolivian Constitutional Assembly [official website, in Spanish] on December 10, and gives the president more power over natural resources, collapses Bolivia's legislature into one body, and allows the president to seek election to two consecutive five-year terms. The court found that the proposed referendum failed to satisfy a constitutional provision which requires the national vote to be held within 90 days of congressional approval of the new legislation. Reuters has more.

The national referendum was narrowly approved by the National Congress of Bolivia [official website, in Spanish] last week and 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].

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