Court threat to Venezuela opposition's super-majority

By: 
AFP

President Nicolas Maduro

VENEZUELAN President Nicolas Maduro's party has filed a legal challenge against the election of eight opposition lawmakers, threatening the two-thirds majority it won in landmark polls this month, the high court said Tuesday.

The opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), accused the leftist ruling party of violating "the people's will" after the December 6 legislative polls, in which MUD won control of the National Assembly for the first time in 16 years.

The opposition won 112 of 167 seats in the elections, a dramatic blow to Maduro and the "revolution" launched in 1999 by his late predecessor Hugo Chavez.

If the court challenge is successful, it could reduce that number to 104, which is shy of a two-thirds majority.

The super-majority gives MUD the power to put legislation to a referendum, remove officials from office, call an assembly to draft a new constitution and possibly seek to force Maduro from power before the end of his term in 2019.

The case will be decided by the Supreme Court of Justice.

Last week Maduro's party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, used an extraordinary session in the final days of its legislative majority to name 13 new judges and 21 substitute judges to the 32-member court.

The opposition, which boycotted the session, condemned the move.

MUD had last week accused the ruling party of filing a court challenge against the election of 22 of its incoming lawmakers, calling the move an "attempted judicial coup."

The high court denied it had received such a case.

But Tuesday's challenge shows the opposition's super-majority is in fact under threat.

Analysts warn of a tough political struggle ahead for the oil-rich but deeply troubled nation, which is mired in recession and facing a potentially chaotic period of divided government.

 

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