Venezuela’s opposition-led parliament [official website, in Spanish] on Wednesday approved [text, PDF, in Spanish] new referendum rules. The law speeds up the process of requesting recall referendums. The Venezuelan Constitution [text, PDF] allows elected officials be recalled if they have served over half their term. This is a move to take control of referendums from the country’s elections council. Polls show [Reuters report] that over two-thirds of Venezuelans believe President Nicholas Maduro’s term should end this year. However, until this point the elections council and the Supreme Court have sided with Maduro against parliament. The Ruling Socialist party [venezuelanalysis.com report] claims that this is a “parliamentary coup” by the opposition after their discussion of a constitutional amendment that would cut the presidential term from six years to four. Maduro’s supporters also claim it is illegal for parliament to retroactively change the length of his term. Parliament will now wait to see if the Supreme Court will overturn their new referendum law.
There has been considerable legislative tension between the pro-government controlled Supreme Tribunal of Justice and the opposition-majority National Assembly of Venezuela following the December election. Last month the highest court in Venezuela, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, ruled that the Venezuelan national assembly may not review the appointment of 13 justices [JURIST report] to the high court by the Socialist Party. The 13 justices were sworn in on December 23, immediately prior to the exit of prior Socialist Party majority. In February the court upheld President Maduro’s economic emergency decree [JURIST report] as legal and valid despite a rejection by the national assembly. The decree allows the president to control the budget, companies and the currency. In January the Supreme Tribunal of Justice ruled that all decisions from the opposition-led assembly would be void [JURIST report] until three opposition lawmakers were removed from their seats. The court’s decision came days after the assembly swore in elected lawmakers that were temporarily barred by the court [JURIST reports]. The ruling had suspended four elected lawmakers for their involvement in alleged election fraud last December [JURIST report].