CARACAS: Venezuela will hold elections in December to renew the National Assembly, the only institution in opposition hands, the electoral authority announced Tuesday.
Candidates will contest an expanded number of seats in the new legislature, which will increase from 167 to 277, said Indira Alfonzo, the president of the recently appointed National Electoral Council.
“We unanimously debated and built the special rules that will govern this December’s parliamentary elections,“ Alfonzo said, announcing the increase in seats. She did not specify a date for the poll.
The opposition led by Juan Guaido, who is recognized as interim president by some 60 countries, has accused President Nicolas Maduro’s government of wanting to hold elections without meeting “the minimum conditions of transparency.”
The main opposition parties had already announced a boycott of the polls, and Maduro was accused by the United States of attempting to rig the election by naming a regime-friendly electoral authority.
The US is one of the dozens of countries formally backing National Assembly speaker Guaido that refuse to recognize Maduro on the grounds that his 2018 re-election was rigged.
Maduro, who succeeded former president Hugo Chavez after his death in 2013, has ruled with an iron fist and presided over the economic collapse of his oil-rich country.
He has frustrated several attempts to unseat him, including a failed uprising called by Guaido, and crucially retains the support of the powerful armed forces.
With the opposition marginalized, the government has a free hand to regain control of the legislature, which it lost in December 2015 when the opposition routed Maduro’s Socialist Party, winning 112 of the 167 seats.
The National Assembly is the only government institution in opposition hands.
Its power however is largely symbolic, having been usurped by the all-powerful Constituent Assembly, a separate body created by Maduro and stacked with government supporters. - AFP