Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice (STJ) [official website, in Spanish] on Monday rejected an attempt by the opposition-led National Assembly to shorten President Nicolas Maduro’s term from six years to four. The opposition, which won control of the National Assembly last year, has been attempting to oust Maduro. The STJ held that the proposed constitutional amendment would be viable if approved by referendum but could not apply retroactively [Noticias24 report, in Spanish]. Venezuelan law does allow for a recall election halfway through an official’s term. If Maduro were to leave office or be ousted this year, a new election would be held. If he were to leave office in the last two years of his term, the vice president would assume the presidency [Reuters report].
There has been considerable legislative tension between the pro-government STJ and the opposition-majority National Assembly of Venezuela following the December election. Last week the assembly approved new new referendum rules [JURIST report] to speed up the process of requesting recall referendums. Last month the STJ 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 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 STJ 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].