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Venezuela Socialists Appeal Election of 8 Lawmakers

FILE - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks in Caracas, Dec. 1, 2015.

Members of Venezuela's ruling Socialist Party have filed Supreme Court appeals to challenge the election of eight opposition legislators, spurring accusations the party is trying to undermine the opposition's landslide victory this month.

Losing Socialist Party and allies candidates from six legislative districts also asked the court for injunctions that could block the winners from taking office, potentially stripping the opposition of the two-thirds majority it won on Dec. 6.

The situation has fueled concerns of a looming power struggle between President Nicolas Maduro and a legislature controlled by the opposition, which accuses him of seeking to chip away at its ballot-box success.

"The defeated leadership has filed six new motions against the will of the people expressed on Dec. 6," Jesus Torrealba, the head of the opposition's Democratic Unity coalition, wrote on Twitter.

The opposition says the move is part of a broader Socialist Party ploy to undermine their new advantage, for instance by setting up a grassroots assembly in the same building as the legislature or naming 13 justices to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court statement dated Dec. 28 did not say on what grounds the former candidates were appealing the elections.

FILE - An opposition supporter celebrates the closing of a polling station during congressional elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 6, 2015.
FILE - An opposition supporter celebrates the closing of a polling station during congressional elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 6, 2015.

Winning the appeal could lead to the elections being repeated.

A court official said no one was available to comment.

Impeding majority

The opposition won 112 seats out of 167 for a 67 percent majority, giving them expanded powers including the ability to sack ministers.

If the eight legislators in question were unable to take office while the court hears a challenge against them, the opposition would not be able to summon a two-thirds majority.

"Nothing will block the swearing-in of the 112 legislators who favor change," tweeted Amelia Belisario, an opposition congresswoman-elect whose seat is being contested.

Socialist Party leaders in the past have scoffed at opposition complaints about electoral irregularities and repeatedly touted the country's automated voting system as the world's most transparent.

Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost to Maduro in 2013, had electoral challenges shot down by the top court.

Maduro has accepted the results of the vote, but has called for an investigation into what he called an unusually high portion of null votes. Another top Socialist Party leader called for a criminal investigation into alleged vote buying.