Constituent Assembly

Constituent Assembly:

One important aspect of Venezuela and its current crisis is a National Constituent Assembly. A National Constituent Assembly is a temporary parliament that is set up to draft or reform a Constitution[1]. Hugo Chavez was the first to call for a Constituent Assembly with the purpose of modifying the constitution that so far had been one of representative democracy, and instead wanted to create a more participatory democracy. In 1999, Chávez held a referendum asking whether or not to create a constitutional assembly to draw up a new Constitution. The referendum passed and the assembly was created with 95% of the seats held by Chavez’s delegates[2]. These delegates were selected through universal vote. The Asamblea Nacional Constituyente (ACN) came up with a draft of the constitution on November 20th, 1999, with 350 articles. The main objectives were to establish a participatory democracy, to change the country’s name to Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to extend the presidential term to six years, it allowed re-election, and the legislature became unicameral[3]. This constitution basically transferred power to the hands of Chávez.

Things are now different under Nicholas Maduro. To start off, the opposition, which was minimal and disbanded during Chavez’s referendum, is now stronger. Also, economically, compared to Chávez, Maduro’s Venezuela is having an economic crisis.[4] Maduro’s Constituent Assembly has been assembled not through a referendum, as Chavez’s Constituent Assembly instead some argue that it has been created illegally. The delegates are not elected by universal vote; instead, they are elected by territorial representation, which some argue only served to help support Maduro[5]. Maduro’s Constituent Assembly set out to reform the Constitution, and more importantly to help Maduro consolidate power. Maduro proposed the Constitutional Assembly in order to resolve the economic and political situation that Venezuela is going through right now, but it is also using it to persecute and demobilize the opposition. Although, Maduro defended his Constituent Assembly as being a place for dialogue in order to modify the constitution.[6] Right now, it seems that the Constituent Assembly was created in order to delay the 2018 elections and extend Maduro’s term. This time there is more international pressure, as there are more countries that do not recognize the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela. So far, it has not created or drafted any articles to the Constitution but it has set out to diminish the opposition and so far it has allowed Maduro to consolidate power.[7]

[1] Melimopoulos, Elizabeth. “Venezuela: What is a National Constituent Assembly?” Politics | Al Jazeera. July 31, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/07/venezuela-maduro-constituent-assembly-170729172525718.html.

[2] Ángel Bermúdez. “En qué se diferencia la nueva Constituyente impulsada por Nicolás Maduro en Venezuela de la que convocó Hugo Chávez en 1999 – BBC Mundo.” BBC News. July 28, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-40736695

[3] Ibid, n.pg

[4] Ibid, n.pg

[5] Shifter, Michael, and Ben Raderstorf. “Venezuela After the Constituent Assembly.” Foreign Affairs. August 01, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2017. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/venezuela/2017-08-01/venezuela-after-constituent-assembly?cid=int-rec&pgtype=art.

[6] Ibid, n.pg

[7] Ibid, n.pg

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