CARACAS Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Monday that a constitutional referendum proposed for February to lift limits on presidential re-election will also include a measure to end similar limits for governors and mayors.
Chavez lost a broad constitutional reform vote in 2007 that included this proposal but only for the president. Broadening the proposal may mean the socialist leader is seeking to increase local leaders' cooperation for what is expected to be a close vote.
"I want the right to run for office without restrictions, as is proposed for the President of the Republic ... to be extended to governors, mayors and legislators," Chavez said in a televised meeting of members of his Socialist Party.
Chavez has said he hopes to hold the referendum by February 15. It is a stripped-down version of the much broader 2007 reform that would have expanded his power and enshrined socialism as the nation's economic system.
Analysts have attributed Chavez's 2007 referendum loss partly to limited campaign efforts by governors and mayors who felt the proposal offered them few benefits.
Voter participation will be crucial in determining the vote. Nearly 3 million Venezuelans who had voted for Chavez's 2006 re-election did not vote in the 2007 referendum.
The 1999 constitution that Chavez helped rewrite only allows a president to stand for reelection once.
Chavez's popularity is close to 60 percent but only one in four Venezuelans back his re-election proposal, according to a poll last year by Caracas-based Datanalisis -- though this figure may rise as the campaign intensifies.
Allies of the socialist leader won elections in November for governors and mayors in most Venezuelan states but lost key posts including the capital of Caracas on complaints about basic issues such as trash collection and law enforcement.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth, editing by Philip Barbara)