Constitutional reform and re-election

Politicians are grabbing the headlines more for what they are not saying than for what they are. The political pact for constitutional reform seems unlikely to pass as is and there is great sceptism that the PRD majority Congress will limit itself to passing the four points agreed upon by the three leading political parties. The four points are: the elimination of the electoral stations; the reduction of the percentage of votes needed to win in a first round to 45%; the election of the DR’s representative to the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) by popular vote instead of by congressional vote; and the further revision of the Constitution by a new body that would be elected by popular vote. The last two points would limit the power of Congress and are opposed by the legislators. The Senate has the last word on constitutional reform. A fifth point, nevertheless, seems to be the most acrid cause of discord. Senators favor the elimination of an article added in the 1994 constitutional reform that bans consecutive presidential re-election. Presidents are currently limited to one four-year term only. In a full page advertisement published in the Listin Diario, Hatuey de Camps, president of the PRD, opposes re-election. De Camps aspires to be the presidential candidate of the PRD in the 2004 election. In a handwritten addendum to a large photo of former PRD leader Jose Francisco Peña Gomez, De Camps writes: “The PRD from its foundation fought against continuism and against presidential re-election. The constitutional ban was a victory of the people and of Jose Francisco Peña Gomez. Let us respect his principles and his memory.” Congress is expected to start formal discussions today.