Venezuela Supreme Court rules parliament’s term extension invalid

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has ruled that a move by the opposition-controlled National Assembly to extend its term an additional year was invalid, paving the way for allies of President Nicolas Maduro to take over the body next month.

The National Assembly, currently overseen by opposition leader Juan Guaido, has declared December 6 parliamentary elections in which allies of Maduro’s ruling socialists won a majority as “illegitimate”, and last week voted to prolong its mandate.

Venezuela’s opposition parties boycotted the vote on the basis that they would not be free and fair. Maduro, who calls Guaido a US-backed puppet seeking to remove him in a coup, has said the electoral conditions were as transparent as when the opposition won a majority in the parliament in 2015.

The sentence declared on Wednesday that any action taken by current legislators “with the purpose of perpetuating, extending or continuing their status as National Assembly lawmakers” to be “lacking in judicial validity and effect”.

The current parliament’s term ends on January 5.The parliament’s move to extend its term came as dozens of legislators facing a criminal investigation for alleged crimes like treason have fled the country. Others have expressed unwillingness to continue serving in Congress due to what they describe as persecution of the government.

Maduro, who enjoys the support of the military, accuses the lawmakers of supporting US sanctions and has mocked the idea that they would extend their term past January 5.

“For Guaido to continue saying he is president would be a terrible cartoon that would produce more shame than laughter,” Maduro said in an interview with state television.

The opposition leader Guaido is recognised by dozens of Western democracies that have questioned the legitimacy of Maduro’s 2018 re-election vote as Venezuela’s rightful leader, due to his position as the National Assembly’s speaker.

Washington has said it will maintain support for Guaido following the parliamentary vote, which it disavowed.

Meanwhile, many Venezuelans keep struggling with basic needs such as electricity, security and food, and have expressed weariness with the country’s politicians, who they said have done nothing to stem the slide in living conditions.

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