National Assembly (Venezuela)

National Assembly of Venezuela

Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela
4th National Assembly
Juan Guaidó, MUD/VP
since 5 January 2019
Minority Leader
Héctor Rodríguez [es], GPP/PSUV
since 5 January 2018
Composicion actual Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela por partido.svg
Political groups
Democratic Unity Roundtable (64)
  •      PJ (30)
  •      UNT (15)
  •      VP (14)
  •      MPV (es) (1)
  •      COPEI (1)
  •      PRVZL (1)
  •      CC (es) (1)
  •      EC (es) (1)

Great Patriotic Pole (50)

Agreement for Change (8)

  •      CMC (es) (8)
  •      AP (3)

I Am Venezuela (es) (4)

Socialist Block (1)

  •      FB (1)

Other Opposition (33)

Vacant (6)

  •      Vacant (6)
Parallel voting
Last election
6 December 2015
Meeting place
PalacioLegislativo2 fixed.jpg
Federal Legislative Palace, Edit this at Wikidata
Coat of arms of Venezuela.svg
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The National Assembly (Spanish: Asamblea Nacional) is the de jure legislature for Venezuela that was first elected in 2000. It is a unicameral body made up of a variable number of members, who were elected by a "universal, direct, personal, and secret" vote partly by direct election in state-based voting districts, and partly on a state-based party-list proportional representation system. The number of seats is constant, each state and the Capital district elected three representatives plus the result of dividing the state population by 1.1% of the total population of the country.[1] Three seats are reserved for representatives of Venezuela's indigenous peoples and elected separately by all citizens, not just those with indigenous backgrounds. For the 2010-2015 period the number of seats was 165.[2] All deputies serve five-year terms. The National Assembly meets in the Federal Legislative Palace in Venezuela's capital, Caracas.

In the midst of the ongoing constitutional crisis, a different body, the Constituent Assembly was elected in 2017, with the intent of re-writing the Venezuelan Constitution. From that point forward, the two legislatures have operated in parallel, with the National Assembly forming the primary opposition to president Nicolás Maduro, and with the Constituent Assembly being his primary supporters.

On 23 January 2019, Juan Guaidó declared himself acting president, citing clauses of the 1999 Venezuelan constitution and his majority in the National Assembly.[3] The National Assembly has since supported Guaidó and has become part of his transitional government.

Legislative History

1961 Constitution

Under its previous 1961 Venezuelan Constitution [es], Venezuela had a bicameral legislature, known as the Congress (Congreso). This Congress was composed of a Senate of Venezuela (Senado) and a Venezuelan Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados).

The Senate was made up of two senators per state, two for the Federal District, and a number of ex officio senators intended to represent the nation's minorities. In addition, former presidents (those elected democratically or their replacements legally appointed to serve at least half a presidential term) were awarded lifetime senate seats. Senators were required to be Venezuelan-born citizens and over the age of 30.

The members of the Chamber of Deputies were elected by direct universal suffrage, with each state returning at least two. Deputies had to be at least 21 years old.

The Senate and the Chamber of Deputies were each led by a President, and both performed their functions with the help of a Directorial Board. The President of Senate of Venezuela hold additional title of the President of Congress, and was constitutional successor of the President of Venezuela in case of a vacancy.[4] This succession took place in 1993, when Octavio Lepage succeeded Carlos Andrés Pérez.

1999 Constitution

President Hugo Chávez was first elected in December 1998 on a platform calling for a National Constituent Assembly to be convened to draft a new constitution for Venezuela. Chávez's argument was that the existing political system, under the earlier 1961 Constitution, had become isolated from the people. This won broad acceptance, particularly among Venezuela's poorest classes, who had seen a significant decline in their living standards over the previous decade and a half. The National Constituent Assembly (ANC), consisting of 131 elected individuals, convened in August 1999 to begin rewriting the constitution. In free elections, voters gave all but six seats to persons associated with the Chávez movement. The Venezuelan people approved the ANC's proposed constitution in a referendum on 15 December 1999. It was promulgated by the ANC and came into effect the following 20 December.

2017 constitutional crisis

On 29 March 2017, the Supreme Court (TSJ) stripped the Assembly of its powers, ruling that all powers would be transferred to the Supreme Court. The previous year the Court found the Assembly in contempt for swearing in legislators whose elections had been deemed invalid by the court.[5] The 2017 court judgement declared that the "situation of contempt" meant that the Assembly could not exercise its powers.[6] The action transferred powers from the Assembly, which had an opposition majority since January 2016,[6] to the Supreme Court, which has a majority of government loyalists.[5] The move was denounced by the opposition with Assembly President Julio Borges describing the action as a coup d'état by President Nicolás Maduro.[5] However, after public protests and condemnation by international bodies, the court's decision was reversed a few days later on 1 April.[7][8]

On 4 August 2017, Venezuela convened a new Constituent Assembly after a special election which was boycotted by opposition parties.[7] The new Constituent Assembly is intended to rewrite the constitution; it also has wide legal powers allowing it to rule above all other state institutions. The Constituent Assembly meets within the Federal Legislative Palace; the leadership of the National Assembly have said it would continue its work as a legislature and it will still continue to meet in the same building.[9]

On 18 August the Constituent Assembly summoned the members of the National Assembly to attend a ceremony acknowledging its legal superiority; the opposition members of the National Assembly boycotted the event.[10] In response, the Constituent Assembly stripped the National Assembly of its legislative powers, assuming them for itself.[11] It justified the move by claiming that the National Assembly had failed to prevent what it called "opposition violence" in the form of the 2017 Venezuelan protests.[12] The constitutionality of this move has been questioned, and it has been condemned by several foreign governments and international bodies.[11][13]

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