Venezuela's Guaido says opposition will not recognize 'false' electoral body

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Saturday the opposition would not recognize a “false” electoral body named by the government-friendly Supreme Court, while his allies pledged to extend the term of the current legislature.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

An extension past the January 2021 end date would allow Guaido, who is recognized by dozens of countries as Venezuela’s rightful leader due to his position as president of the opposition-held National Assembly, to remain in the role even if the opposition boycotts parliamentary elections due by the end of the year.

“We do not recognize any false national electoral council,” Guaido told reporters during a virtual press conference.

Venezuela’s constitution grants the power to appoint members of the national electoral council to congress, but the Supreme Court - widely viewed as loyal to President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government - on Friday named its own board after ruling the legislature had failed to do so.

Maduro said on Saturday the new board was necessary to elect a new National Assembly after what he described as “five totally lost years” under the opposition-held legislature.

“I make a call for participation and permanent dialogue,” Maduro said in a state television address.

Opposition leaders denounced the move as an attempt to rig the election, and some prominent Guaido allies said in response the current legislature should extend its term.

“The current legitimate National Assembly will continue as long as no valid constitutional electoral process to substitute it has been held,” Henry Ramos, a senior lawmaker from the large Democratic Action block, wrote on Twitter on Friday night.

Asked about a possible extension, Guaido said his priority was ousting Maduro before the end of the year, and that the National Assembly would move forward with naming its own electoral rectors.

“For us, 2021 is very far away,” he said.

Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Luc Cohen and Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall, Daniel Wallis and Richard Chang