Colombia's Lower House OKs Re-Election Bill

Colombia's lower House approved a bill calling for a referendum on whether to change the constitution to allow President Alvaro Uribe to run for a third consecutive term.

After a marathon debate that lasted until early Wednesday, lawmakers voted 85-5 in favor of the proposal, with 76 abstentions.

The bill, which has already passed the Senate, now goes to Colombia's Constitution Court, which has 90 days to rule on it.

The referendum would ask voters if Colombia should modify its constitution to allow presidents to run for two consecutive re-elections. The current constitution, which was already modified once to let Uribe run for a second four-year term, allows for a single immediate re-election.

Colombia's next election is in May 2010, and Uribe has not yet said publicly if he will run for a third term.

Uribe, a conservative closely allied with Washington, is highly popular for reducing Colombia's murder and kidnapping rates and putting leftist rebels on the defensive. But critics have urged him to step aside, saying eight years is enough and a healthy democracy requires alternating leadership.