Earlier today, the outgoing PSUV-controlled National Assembly assigned 13 new magistrates to the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), the nation’s top court, a role that was reserved by the country’s laws to the National Assembly in session during 2016. The magistrates were vetted over the course of four days, during which time the National Assembly debated the list of candidates before finally settling on the 13 new Supreme Court magistrates.
Opposition politicians decried the move as a desperate rush job to try to stack the TSJ with PSUV supporters before the party loses control of the National Assembly on January 5. The opposition has pointed out that while the law dictates that the vetting period at the National Assembly for potential TSJ magistrates must last at least 15 days, this process barely took four. There were nearly 400 candidates for the 13 positions.
Opposition deputy Andres Velasquez also pointed out that the National Assembly currently in session does not have the legal authority to assign the magistrates, as the task falls to the assembly in session the year the outgoing magistrates are set to retire. In this case, the retiring magistrates’ terms are up in 2016, meaning that the opposition-controlled National Assembly has the legal authority to fill the vacated seats.
On the National Assembly’s contempt for the law, Velasquez said:
We’re definitely looking at an attack [against the rule of law], a dismantling of the institutionality of the country. We could define this [National Assembly] session as the “Session of Fear”. Who would have thought that you [the PSUV], who’ve been scaring people for the last 17 years, would hold this session today out of fear for the people?
Once the assignments had been approved by the assembly and it came time for the official swearing in ceremony, the opposition deputies left the chamber in protest.
A list of the thirteen new magistrates for the TSJ can be seen here, in Spanish.
Allup: Assignments Will Be Short Lived
Opposition deputy and leading figure for the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) Henry Ramos Allup took to Twitter to denounce today’s National Assembly magistrate assignments and warned that they would be short-lived, possibly hinting at the possibility that the MUD-controlled incoming National Assembly would seek to revoke the assignments.
Allup, who is known for his colourful oratory, compared the assignments to the short, erratic flight of a small hen through his Twitter account:
A dying national assembly assigns dying “magistrates” to a dying supreme court. Everything in lower case. A short flight, like that of the small hen.
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