Venezuela’s high court temporarily prevented three incoming opposition lawmakers from taking office and accepted challenges involving additional opposition deputies. The opposition said the moves are an attempt to undermine its recently won two-thirds legislative majority.
The court’s electoral branch said it’s authorized to review electoral challenges that could overturn the results in eight races, according to decisions posted on its website. By winning 112 of the National Assembly’s 167 seats in the Dec. 6 national ballot, the opposition’s so-called supermajority would allow it to change the constitution, impeach ministers and even push for a referendum on removing the president.
After President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist PSUV party lost control of the legislature for the first time since 1999, the Venezuelan leader vowed that Congress would continue to pass laws before its term ends. That has heightened tensions with opposition leaders who want to roll back measures they say have stoked inflation, fueled corruption, and led to shortages of basic consumer goods.
The government’s electoral challenges seek to “reject the voice of the people,” opposition coalition secretary Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba said in an interview on the Venevision network before the court’s announcement. “All of this generates political instability.”
The Supreme Court is denying the opposition’s request for copies of the legal files, Torrealba said.
Lame-duck legislators named more than a dozen Supreme Court justices Dec. 22, just weeks before the new congress takes power Jan. 5.
“We respect the constitution and you do not,” outgoing National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said after the Dec. 22 vote. “This type of confrontation is inevitable.”