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Colombia president calls for election referendum after court orders legal inquiry

[JURIST] Colombian President Alvaro Uribe [official profile, in Spanish; BBC profile] Monday moved forward with plans for a national referendum on the country's 2006 presidential election. Last week, the Colombian High Court [official backgrounder] ruled [AP report] that a legal inquiry should be held into the election after it found that a legislator had been bribed to help push constitutional amendments allowing Uribe to seek a second term in office. Uribe accused the court of bias and instead announced plans to hold a referendum on the election's outcome. It is not clear if a referendum can be held before the court determines whether the election was legally valid. Critics accused Uribe of overstepping his authority in ignoring the judiciary, and of using the referendum as a stepping-stone to push additional amendments to allow him to run for a third term. Reuters has more.

Uribe has frequently clashed with the courts in recent months, particularly in matters concerning the country's long feud with right-wing anti-government paramilitaries. In May, the Constitutional Court [official backgrounder] threw out a part of the controversial 2005 Justice and Peace Law [JURIST reports] approved by Uribe, which gave lesser punishments to paramilitary leaders who voluntarily disarm. Paramilitary leaders argued that the decision would disrupt the peace process.

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