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Politics

What is Venezuela's constituent assembly?

Marred by allegations of fraud, a controversial electoral process has decided who will form a constituent assembly tasked with rewriting the constitution. DW examines its powers and how it will impact the country.

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Venezuela: A divided country

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro effectively used his powers to establish a constituent assembly tasked with rewriting the country's constitution.

Venezuelans voted for the 545 members that comprise the legislative body. However, the electoral process has been marred by allegations of voter fraud.

Domestic opposition groups as well as the international community criticized the establishment of the assembly as an attempt by Maduro to hold onto power.

But the all-powerful legislative body does have precedent. Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez established a similar body in 1999.

However, unlike Chavez's constituent assembly, which was brought about by a popular referendum, Maduro's version was ordered into existence by presidential decree.

Superseding powers

While it is unclear what Maduro expects from the constituent assembly, it has the power to change the constitution. It complemented this power by also expanding its role as a supreme power over all of Venezuela's existing institutions. Here's what the assembly can do:

-          Create a peace and justice commission that could target opposition leaders for their involvement in anti-government protests

-          Strip lawmakers in the opposition-held National Assembly of their immunity from prosecution

-          Postpone the 2018 presidential election

-          Extend the president's mandate beyond six years

-          Change the electoral process

-          Dismiss officials in independent branches of the government

shs,ls/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters, EFE)

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