The Venezuelan Supreme Court late Monday ruled that any decisions made by the opposition-controlled National Assembly will be invalid if three lawmakers, whose seats are being challenged, are permitted to remain on the floor of the body.
The decision, which was made by justices who are supporters of President Nicolás Maduro’s government and the regime of his predecessor Hugo Chávez, could ignite a constitutional crisis between Venezuela’s judiciary and the legislature powers.
A constitutional crisis could be ignited over the court’s ruling
Following the December 6 parliamentary race, in which the opposition won an absolute majority, government officials filed challenges against three deputies who were elected to represent the southern Amazonas state on voter-buyer allegations and other irregularities.
The Supreme Court took the case up against the elected-deputies Nirma Guarulla, Julio Haron Ygarza and Romel Guzamnana.
In what the opposition sees as a strategy to cut the absolute majority of 112 seats won by candidates of its Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition, defeated government candidates also filed challenges in various voting districts in Aragua, Yaracuy and Amazonas states.
But on December 30, the Supreme Court decided to only take up the cases in Amazonas and prohibited four elected National Assembly members – including one candidate from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) – from taking up their seats.
Nevertheless, the National Assembly allowed them to be sworn in as a precautionary measure last Wednesday – a day after the other members took their oath.
Members of the now minority bloc in the National Assembly again went before the Supreme Court to complain and asked the justices to declare the legislative body in contempt.
The order published on the court’s website on Monday also holds National Assembly speaker Henry Ramos Allup and two deputy speakers in contempt.
On Friday, Enrique Márquez, deputy speaker and a member of the opposition A New Time (UNT) party, said there was plenty of legal arguments as to why the deputies should be allowed to take their seats.
Former National Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello praised the top court’s ruling and said that as long as the legislative body remains in contempt, “no one is going to recognize it.”
English version by Martin Delfín.