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Venezuela Opposition Says Socialists Seek to Block 22 New Lawmakers

  • Reuters

People walk past the National Assembly building in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 22, 2015.

People walk past the National Assembly building in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 22, 2015.

Venezuela's opposition on Tuesday accused the ruling Socialist Party of seeking to block 22 lawmakers from taking office in January in what it described as an effort to undermine the opposition's commanding victory in this month's legislative election.

Since the opposition won a two-thirds majority in the December 6 legislative vote, the government of President Nicolas Maduro has set up a parallel grass-roots assembly and said it would tap new Supreme Court judges before the new National Assembly convenes in January.

The head of the opposition coalition, Jesus Torrealba, said the Socialist Party had filed a request to the Supreme Court that it prevent the lawmakers from taking office on January 5, when the next Congress convenes.

"Today they want to win in the halls of bureaucracy what they couldn't win with the votes of the people," Torrealba said during a news conference, flanked by leading opposition figures, including two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.

"With this attitude, opposing the will of the people, they're losing what little legitimacy they had."

Torrealba did not say which deputies would be prevented from taking office, nor on what ground the Socialist Party was lodging the legal challenge.

Officials of the Supreme Court and Socialist Party were not immediately available for comment.

Contesting election results in Venezuela generally involves making appeals to the National Electoral Council to allege irregularities at polling stations that could have altered results or formally challenging the vote tallies used to determine the winners.

Maduro has not announced plans to mount a challenge via the electoral authority. He has instead called for an investigation into what he called large numbers of null votes, and one party leader has called on prosecutors to investigate alleged vote buying by opposition activists.

The opposition's 112 lawmakers-elect give it a coveted two-thirds majority, which allows it to shake up institutions and sack cabinet ministers.

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