By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas. This article was first published on Venezuela Analysis.
Bogota, January 2nd 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) officially suspended the swearing in of four incoming legislators on Wednesday pending investigations of voting irregularities in Amazonas state.
The ruling by the chief judicial body’s electoral chamber was a response to a series of official requests submitted by legislative candidates from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) last Tuesday.
Following legislative elections in Venezuela this past December 6th, PSUV representatives petitioned the court to place a temporarily injunction on all legislators elected in Amazonas, Yaracuy and Aragua states, as well as on the indigenous representative elected for the southern zone of the country.
The candidates cite a number of electoral irregularities, including vote buying, fraud and a significant number of unexplained blank votes as the reason for the requests.
The court ruled against petitions for injunctions in Yaracuy, Aragua and the indigenous southern zone, which it found “inadmissible”.
Nonetheless it upheld a request from the PSUV’s Nicia Maldonado in Amazonas state and ordered “the temporary and immediate suspension of the effects of the acts of totalisation, adjudication and proclamation emitted by the National Electoral Council (CNE)” of all candidates – including the corresponding indigenous representative – for the south eastern state.
Only 109 opposition legislators will now be sworn in on January 5th instead of the 112 that were expected. The decision also affects one PSUV legislator, also elected in Amazonas.
The ruling means that the opposition now falls temporarily short of the 112 legislators that it needs to form a two-thirds super majority in the National Assembly – which would enable it to make sweeping legislative changes and challenge the president.
December 6th marked the first time that the rightwing Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition has beaten the ruling Chavista movement in National Assembly elections since 1999.
Although Venezuelan president and leader of the PSUV, Nicolas Maduro accepted the results immediately on the night of the elections, several irregularities emerged in the wake of results – including reports of fraud and vote buying, particularly in Amazonas state.
A higher than average number of blank votes were also reported to have been cast in the elections and are also pending investigation.
The court will now hear arguments to make an official ruling on the Amazonas case. If it finds that elections results were fraudulent, then the CNE will be obliged to organise a state-level re-run.
Nonetheless, opposition politicians have pledged to disavow the court’s ruling.
“The unbelievable decision of the Supreme Court, which leaves the entire state of Amazonas without parliamentary representation is a declaration of rebellion of the defeated bureaucracy against the legitimate decision of the people,” reads an official statement published by the MUD in response to the ruling.
Leader of the Democratic Action party and a chief voice within the MUD, Ramos Allup, also publicly called on the armed forces to “guarantee order” on January 5th when new incoming legislators will take up their positions within the parliament.
Jailed politician and leader of the Popular Will party, Leopoldo Lopez, also rejected the decision.
In a statement released from prison, Lopez stated that “if Maduro and the rest of the heads of the (public) powers that have been kidnapped by a corrupt and anti-democratic elite, torpedo the change, refusing to recognise the results of last December 6th, then it will be necessary to remove them”.
Lopez is currently serving a 13 year jail term for leading deadly barricades and actions in 2014 in an attempt to unseat the national government.