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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Colombia constitutional court strikes down Uribe third term referendum law
Ximena Marinero at 3:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Colombia [official website, in Spanish] voted 7-2 Friday to strike down as unconstitutional [text, in Spanish] a law that would have allowed a referendum to amend the Colombian Constitution [text in Spanish] to enable current President Alvaro Uribe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to run for a third term. The court's decision was based on grave violations of principles of democratic participation and transparency that the court said took place during the campaign for the law. Among the irregularities cited by the court were flagrant excesses in campaign finance donations and the improper delegation of campaign funding to a civil organization that spent up to six times more than the statutory limit imposed by the National Electoral Council [official website, in Spanish]. Irregularities in the legislative process included a discrepancy between the text of the law that would have been voted on and the version approved by the Colombian Congress [official website], deficient public notice on the legislative vote, and voting rendered inappropriate due to legislators changing their political affiliation to approve the law. The decision may not be appealed. Uribe has enjoyed widespread support in recent polls, but a range of civic groups have welcomed [PDA press release, in Spanish; ColombiaNews video report] the court's decision.

In September, the Colombian House of Representatives voted to approve [JURIST report] the bill [text, PPS; in Spanish]. The Colombian Senate [official website] had approved [press release, in Spanish; JURIST report] a similar proposal in May. Uribe was elected to a second term in 2006 after a similar referendum, approved by Congress [NYT report] in December 2004 and the Constitutional Court [JURIST report] in October 2005, lifted the original one-term limit. In June 2008, the Colombian Supreme Court 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 through the constitutional changes. Uribe had called [JURIST report] for the referendum to decide on the election in response to the high court's ruling.

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