December 23, 2015 / 1:02 AM / 3 years ago

Venezuela opposition says Socialists seek to challenge 22 new lawmakers

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s opposition on Tuesday accused the ruling Socialist Party of seeking to block 22 lawmakers from taking office in January in what it described as an effort to undermine the opposition’s commanding victory in this month’s legislative election.

Jesus Torrealba, secretary of Venezuelan coalition of opposition parties (MUD) speaks during a news conference with the new elected deputies from the MUD in Caracas, Venezuela, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

However, Venezuela’s Supreme Court put out a statement late Tuesday evening saying that no judicial action had been received with the objective of challenging election results.

Since the opposition won a two-thirds majority in the Dec. 6 legislative vote, the government of President Nicolas Maduro has set up a parallel grassroots assembly and said it will tap new Supreme Court judges before the new National Assembly convenes in January.

The head of the opposition coalition, Jesus Torrealba, said the Socialist Party had filed a request to the Supreme Court that they prevent the lawmakers from taking office on Jan. 5, when the next Congress convenes.

“Today they want to win in the halls of bureaucracy what they couldn’t win with the votes of the people,” said Torrealba during a news conference, flanked by leading opposition figures, including two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.

“With this attitude, opposing the will of the people, they’re losing what little legitimacy they had.”

Torrealba did not say which deputies would be prevented from taking office, nor on what grounds the Socialist Party was lodging the legal challenge.

The Socialist Party were not immediately available for comment.

Contesting election results in Venezuela generally involves making appeals to the National Electoral Council to allege irregularities at polling stations that could have altered results or formally challenging the vote tallies used to determine the winners.

Maduro has not announced plans to mount a challenge via the electoral authority. He has instead called for an investigation into what he called large numbers of null votes, and one party leader has called on prosecutors to investigate alleged vote buying by opposition activists.

The opposition’s 112 lawmakers-elect give it a coveted two-thirds majority, which allows it to shake up institutions and sack cabinet ministers.

Reporting by Girish Gupta and Eyanir Chinea; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Sandra Maler

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