The Venezuelan National Assembly began the task of renewing the state’s public powers today, despite the opposition’s abstention from the key parliamentary votes.
Enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, Venezuela has five branches of government: executive, legislative, judicial, citizen and electoral. Current parliamentary sessions are aimed at renewing vacant or expired positions in the latter three.
To renew the tripartite “citizen power”, the pro-government majority led by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) designated Luisa Ortega Diaz once again as Attorney General, as well as two other figures associated with the government as Ombudsman and Comptroller General.
Tarek William Saab, the new ombudsman, is a former state governor and was a member of the 1999 constituent assembly which drew up the national constitution. The officials will serve seven year terms in their positions.
The opposition Democratic Unity Table (MUD) coalition abstained from the vote, arguing that the designations could not be made with only a simple (50%+1) parliamentary majority, but constitutionally must be made with a two thirds majority. The government has an overall, but not two thirds, majority in the National Assembly.
The government contested this argument on procedural grounds, and backed by a Supreme Court ruling in its favour, was able to designate the new members of the citizen power without negotiating with the opposition.
After the opposition also refused to vote on the appointment of three of the five rectors of the National Electoral Council (CNE) whose terms have expired, these appointments will pass to the Supreme Court (TSJ) to decide, confirmed National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello.
The PSUV has proposed that two of the three rectors whose terms have expired, Tibisay Lucena and Sandra Oblitas, be reelected to a further seven year term. In the place of the third rector, Vicente Diaz, who is perceived as being closer to the opposition, they have proposed Marcos Octavio Mendez.
Meanwhile 12 of the 32 TSJ judges are set to be replaced for non renewable 12 year terms. The National Assembly will meet on three occasions over the Christmas period to try and reach a two thirds majority agreement on the appointment of the new judges. If this fails, the judges will be chosen by a simple majority.
President Nicolas Maduro congratulated those who had been designated to form the citizen branch of government today, and said the process had highlighted the importance of having a parliament “directed by a large majority of patriotic and chavista deputies”.
“On to 2015 to consolidate peace and stability in the country with a victory in the National Assembly elections,” he tweeted, in reference to next year’s key legislative contest.
Opposition leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles repeated the opposition’s stance and warned that if the opposition were to win in 2015, they may consider this year’s public power appointments as invalid and try to annul them.
“The constitution is very clear and if they [the government] violate it to name the powers, for me these powers are transitory…It will be up to the next parliament to solve the issue of the election of the powers,” he told local media.