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Venezuela high court swears in electoral council members in Constitution sidestep

By Andrew V. Pestano
Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice on Wednesday swore in new members for the National Electoral Council, which is a duty granted to the National Assembly. The high court said it made the ruling because the opposition-controlled parliament is in contempt. File Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/European Pressphoto Agency
Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice on Wednesday swore in new members for the National Electoral Council, which is a duty granted to the National Assembly. The high court said it made the ruling because the opposition-controlled parliament is in contempt. File Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/European Pressphoto Agency

CARACAS, Venezuela, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- In a constitutional sidestep, Venezuela's high court on Wednesday swore in new National Electoral Council, or CNE, which is supposed to be the responsibility of parliament.

The new CNE members will serve from 2016-22. Socorro Elizabeth Hernández and Tania D' Amelio Cardiet will serve as principal members, while Andrés Eloy Brito Denis and Iván Zerpa Guerrero will serve as deputies.

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Members of the opposition, which control's parliament, the National Assembly, accuse the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, or TSJ, and the CNE of serving the interests of President Nicolas Maduro's socialist regime -- first developed by late former President Hugo Chavez.

Under Venezuela's Constitution, the National Assembly is responsible for electing members for the CNE, as well as the prosecutor general and justices for the high court. The opposition has accused the new CNE members of being allies of Maduro.

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In a statement, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice's Constitutional Hall said it decided to confirm a ruling by the court's Electoral Hall in which it said the court would elect the members because the National Assembly is in contempt and because the term ended for past members of the CNE, also referred to as the Electoral Power.

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"It is a fact that due to the contempt situation in which the National Assembly is located, any procedure that has been initiated at the seat of the parliament in order to elect members of the Electoral Power is vitiated by nullity by mandate of the Electoral Hall, a criterion that has been confirmed by the Constitutional Hall," the court said in its ruling.

TSJ President Justice Gladys Gutiérrez said the court decision will help Venezuela develop smoothly and give continuity to the CNE.

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María Corina Machado, an opposition leader, said Maduro's "dictatorship advanced" due to the court's ruling.

"The TSJ has become one of the greatest shames in the history of the country! They bring embarrassment. They do nothing for the benefit of the country!" Henrique Capriles Radonski, governor of Venezuela's Miranda state and a key opposition leader, said in a statement.

In 2002, the TSJ ruled it could elect CNE members if the National Assembly could not achieve a two-thirds majority to elect the members itself.

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