Maduro Packs Electoral Council With Loyalists Ahead of Elections
(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Friday appointed five new members to the country’s Electoral Council, most of them loyal to Nicolas Maduro’s regime, in an accelerated approval process that bypassed the National Assembly.
By unilaterally designating the new officials, Maduro is seeking to firm up control over the electoral system ahead of December’s congressional elections. The move is a setback for the opposition, which was trying to nominate new leadership to the Electoral Council, known as CNE, via the Assembly.
The high court, in a ruling announced via press release, appointed Gladys Gutierrez, Tania D’Amelio, Rafael Jimenez, Jose Luis Gutierrez and Indira Alfonzo, who will serve as the body’s president. Following the announcement, the five were sworn in by Mikel Moreno, the supreme court president, on state television.
With three of the five newly appointed members completely loyal to him -- Tania D’Amelio, and Judges Gladys Gutierrez and Indira Alfonzo -- Maduro has successfully tightened his grip of the CNE.
D’Amelio previously served as an electoral officer and Gladys Gutierrez was president of the Supreme Court between 2013 and 2017. Alfonzo once headed the high court’s electoral room.
Jose Luis Gutierrez and Rafael Simon Jimenez were selected as a new rector by smaller minority opposition parties that have been part of round-table discussions with the government since last year.
‘The Only Way’
Remarkably, no one close to the opposition parties led by the president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, was among the new members named to the CNE.
Under Venezuelan law, the Supreme Court is only required to participate in the appointment process if the National Assembly fails to agree on the matter.
“Nobody is going to validate their madness, the only way is through the National Assembly, and we are going to continue on that path,” Guaido said in an webcast interview hours before the appointments.
Guaido is viewed as Venezuela’s interim president by more than 50 countries following elections in 2018 that the U.S. and its allies said were fraudulent.
On June 4, Felipe Mujica, representative for smaller minority opposition parties, asked the Supreme Court to appoint the new electoral authorities.
The move followed weeks of negotiations between the government and minority parties seeking to move forward with elections. Guaido and his allies didn’t take part in the talks, and haven’t decided whether to take part in the elections, which they say are unlikely to be fair.
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