President of the Constitutional Court Nilson Pinilla said Thursday that discussion of the re-election referendum would begin again next year.
“Most likely [we will begin] discussion of the bill after 12 January next year when we return from vacation,” said Pinilla. “Although obviously we will work during the vacation, we can not meet in the Court to discuss the issue [until after then].” He added that the Court’s calendar was too full to discuss the matter until after the holidays.
The court will examine several challenges to the referendum, ranging from questions over the financing of the campaign to collect signatures in favor of the vote to complaints over the legality of the decision in Congress.
This situation could greatly complicate the process for calling the referendum, should the law pass in the Constitutional Court, reported newspaper El Tiempo.
Former Minister Juan Lozano said that “as a citizen and a lawyer” he hopes that “the Court makes a judgment [quickly], because the object of this study is simple and short.”
Representative for Partido de la U Roy Barreras said, “we expect the Court to [make a decision] at latest by the end of January. It is a matter of national urgency.” He warned that “if the Court makes its decision late in February, in practical terms it would be denying the referendum process.”
El Tiempo reported that lawyers close to the Government that have examined the issue believe that even if not approved until February, there would still be time to hold a referendum.
The Court appointed magistrate Humberto Sierra Porto to revise the referendum, and after the Court receives his revision, the full bench will have 60 working days to make a final decision. If it is pushed to the final time limits, there would be no decision until late March and presidential elections are in mid-May.
According to Reuters news agency, electoral authorities say once the court makes its ruling, they will need at least two months to organize the re-election referendum, meaning that President Alvaro Uribe will not have much time to mount a re-election campaign.