VENEZUELA: IS THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH CONTROLLED BY THE EXECUTIVE?
Report from Sumate.org
1. In December 1998 Hugo Chávez Frías won the presidential elections with 35% of total votes. 36.55% of the electorate chose to abstain while 56.20% voted for Chavez. In November of that same year the same electorate had elected a new bicameral Congress in which all the political groups of the time were represented.
2. Immediately, President Chávez Frías began a process aimed at transforming the Venezuelan State. On the basis of a decision issued in January 1999 by the Supreme Court of Justice Chávez promoted the convening of a consultative referendum a provision for which was included in the Basic Law on Voting and Political Participation but not in the 1961 constitution in force at the time. The Referendum would launch a process aimed at drafting a new Constitution.
3. In 1999, and with only 35% of total electoral votes, the government's party secured 96% of the delegates to the Constitutional Assembly.
4. Before the Constitutional Assembly began its task, Congress was forced to "enter into recess" and was thus de facto "dissolved". The National Constitutional Assembly took control of the Legislative Power.
5. Following the approval of the new Constitution, were called in July 2000 for a new National Assembly in which the government's party succeeded in securing a majority.
6. Chávez, in turn, won the new presidential elections with 32% of total votes and an abstention rate as high as 43%.
7. On November 11, 2000 , the National Assembly passed the second Enabling Law (Ley Habilitante) , based on Articles 203 and 236 of the 1999 Constitution. Since the Enabling Law granted the Executive Branch the authority to legislate, albeit in a transitory manner, this proceeded to change several basic laws. (The first Enabling Law had been approved by the former Congress on April 27, 1999, in accordance to Article 190/8 of the 1961 Constitution).
8. The above developments sparked, the December 2001 lock out, the labor strike and the events of April 2002 .
9. As a result of the April 2002 events, the government lost the support of some of the parties in its coalition as well as its qualified majority (two thirds) in the National Assembly.
10. One of the tactics used by the parliamentary faction controlled by the Administration has been to restrict or impede Assembly debates and to expedite the approval of Basic Laws through modifications of the Assembly's Internal Rules of Procedure and Debates (7 in only two years), approved by simple majority.
11. The opposition has denounced the multiple modifications to the National Assembly's Rules of Procedure as unconstitutional. In this regard, it has presented several complaints before the TSJ (Supreme Court of Justice), which is yet to rule on the matter.
12. Following the appointment in January 2005 of the National Assembly's new leadership, controlled by the pro-government factions and presided by Nicolás Maduro, the situation in the Assembly became very tense At one point, the National Guard was asked to intervene to oust Congressman Nicolás Sosa (MAS) from the premises in the midst of a dispute regarding the modification of the Central Bank Law. The modification of the Central Bank Law was approved even though copies of it were not distributed on the floor of the Assembly and it was not debated as regulations required. The opposition strongly protested this maneuver.
13. Several statements by pro-government members of the Assembly should also be noted. For example, Congresswoman Iris Valera has clearly indicated: "We will not stop whatever reforms we choose to introduce to the laws of this country; this is why we have the majority". (El Nacional, Wednesday, June 22, 2005 ).