Venezuela’s opposition on Tuesday accused the government of trying to stage a “judicial coup” by challenging the legitimacy of 22 of its deputies-elect ahead of the Jan. 5 opening of the new National Assembly, even as the court denied the allegations.
Julio Borges, the coordinator of the Primero Justicia party, said the Supreme Court had accepted a challenge against the deputies brought by the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
“We are alerting the national and International community, and the avalanche of people who voted for change, that the government is trying to undermine the electoral results by using the [court] as an arm of the PSUV,” he said in a statement.
On Wednesday, however, the Supreme Court said it remained in recess and had not received any legal challenges against deputies. In a statement, the government said it was stepping in front of the rumors “that do not contribute to the environment of tranquility and peace.”
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The opposition won 112 out of 167 seats in congress during the Dec. 6 election, giving it a powerful super majority. The deputies will take their seats next month, marking the first time the socialist administration has lost control of the body in more than 15 years.
While President Nicolás Maduro initially seemed prepared to accept the turning tide, the behind-the-scenes maneuvering suggests otherwise.
The National Assembly, which is currently controlled by the PSUV, seems prepared to work until the last minute. On Wednesday, the body was expected to continue its special session to appoint a raft of new Supreme Court judges.
On Tuesday, the government held a meeting of the “Communal Parliament,” a body that was brought to life nine days after the elections, although it had been on the books since 2010.
The government says the Communal Parliament is the “maximum instance of self-government” and will have the ability to “regulate the social and communal life” of Venezuela and help maintain “public order.” But the administration also insists that the body will not detract from the power of the National Assembly.
Some don’t buy that.
“The creation of this parallel institution underlines the government’s efforts to side-line and leapfrog the incoming opposition-controlled National Assembly,” Diego Moya-Ocampos, a senior analyst with IHS Country Risk, wrote.
Jesús Torrealba, the general secretary of the opposition coalition known as the MUD, called Tuesday’s alleged Supreme Court challenge “a judicial coup.”
“This is an ambush by the government,” he said, adding that the court had come in from a scheduled recess to hear the case. “It’s hoping to win at the desks of bureaucracy what it couldn’t win with votes.”
This article has been updated to include the Supreme Court statement.