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| 11/20/2009 12:00:00 AM

Uribe's Third Term

Nov 20--Colombia's president can set a democratic example by saying no.

A modern, democratic president with a 64% approval rating at the end of his second term has reason to be proud and wonder if he could win again. It's at precisely such a moment, however, when he should also remember that a properly functioning democracy never depends upon one man and requires the peaceful transfer of power.

We refer to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, whose second term expires in August. When he took office in 2002 his country was beset by guerrilla terrorism. Millions of Colombians have benefited from his policy of "democratic security," which has restored order and confidence in government. But now his supporters are trying to win a constitutional amendment that would allow him to run for a third term, and Mr. Uribe has not told them "no."

He should. Last week's ruling by a National Electoral Council panel invalidating millions of petition signatures supporting the required referendum on the issue is a perfect opportunity for Mr. Uribe to do so.

Some legal analysts dispute the ruling and say the constitutional court is not likely to rely on it when making the final decision about the legality of a referendum. But the decision certainly complicates both the legality and politics of any third-term attempt, and the matter is now unlikely to be resolved for months. Meantime, the May election looms and Mr. Uribe's party has no candidate.

Mr. Uribe has been a champion of the rule of law, and a lunge for a third term will threaten his legacy as a leader who has laid the groundwork for a new Colombia. It would also set a bad precedent for future rulers, some of them left-wing populists, who may point to it to justify their own attempts to remain in power.
 
Read more here.
 
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