There has been a lot of confusion on when things should happen during Chavez’ Presidential term. The reason is that the new Constitution redefined the term to six years and Chavez was sworn in on August 2000. Someone asked the Supreme Court to clarify the issue and the Court said that Chavez’ |presidential period would end on Jan. 10th. 2007. The reason is that Art. 231 of the Constitution says that the President would be sworn in specifically on Jan. 10th. of the first year of his term. Since this was an exception, the Court in a sense gave Chavez an extra six months, by redefining the beginning of his term to be Jan. 10th. 2001.
This issue is discussed in today’s El Universal at length by Constitutional lawyer Tulio Alvarez. The second confusion arises because in that same decision, the Supreme Court said that the mid-term of Chavez Presidential period would be measured from Aug. 19th. 2000 and was Aug. 19th. 2003, which was the first date in which the opposition could introduce a petition requesting the President’s recall.
The Government has always promoted the idea that based on this, Aug. 19th. 2004 would also establish a limit for when a successful recall would be followed by a Presidential election. According to the Constitution (Art. 233):
“When the absolute absence of the President takes place during the first four years of the Presidential term, there will be a new election….”
But then it says:
“If the absolute absence takes place during the last two years of the presidential period, the Vice-President will assume the Presidency…”
Thus, Alvarez argues that the last date for a recall referendum which will be followed by an election is not Aug. 19th. like the Government wants everyone to believe, but Jan 10th. 2005, since the second part clearly states that the Vice-President will take over only during the last two years. Since the Court said the end of the term is on Jan. 10th. 2007, then the Vice-President can only take over if the recall takes place after that date. And since the court said the term began in Jan. 10th. 2001, then the first part says there should be an election if the recall takes place before Jan. 10th. 2005.
Unfortunately, it is the Constitutional Hall of the Supreme Court that would have to resolve the issue and we know those guys have no ethics whatsoever.