Venezuela’s National Electoral Council on Wednesday called parliamentary elections for December 6, with the opposition already vowing to boycott.
The National Assembly parliament is the only government branch controlled by the opposition. But it has been left powerless since 2017 when the Supreme Court, which is controlled by the government of President Nicolas Maduro, declared it in contempt and has since annulled its every decision.
Election body president Indira Alfonzo announced the date on the government TV station.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido, the National Assembly president, has accused President Nicolas Maduro’s government of wanting to hold elections without meeting “the minimum conditions of transparency”.
The main opposition parties had already announced a boycott of the polls, and Maduro was accused by the United States of attempting to rig the election by naming a regime-friendly electoral authority.
The regime-controlled Supreme Court on June 12 named the electoral body’s board of directors — but according to Venezuelan law, that is the job of parliament.
Guaido is recognised by some 60 countries as Venezuela’s interim president after declaring himself as such in January 2019, after the National Assembly branded Maduro a usurper over his controversial 2018 re-election in a poll widely derided as rigged.
Maduro, who succeeded former president Hugo Chavez after his death in 2013, has ruled with an iron fist and presided over the economic collapse of his oil-rich country.
He has frustrated several attempts to unseat him, including a failed uprising called by Guaido, and crucially retains the support of the powerful armed forces.
The electoral body announced on Monday a 66 per cent increase in the number of seats in parliament, from 167 to 277, allegedly due to “the demographic increase of the population.”
Political parties have from August 10-19 to present their candidates, while the election campaign will run from November 21 to December 5.
Maduro has welcomed the news of the election date and told official television station VTV: “We will prepare for the birth of a new National Assembly”.
With the opposition marginalised, the government has a free hand to regain control of the legislature, which it lost in December 2015 when the opposition routed Maduro’s Socialist Party, winning 112 of the 167 seats.
However, its power has been symbolic since 2017 and it was usurped by the all-powerful Constituent Assembly, a separate body created by Maduro and stacked with government supporters.