CNE freelances itself s'more powers: bars the Assembly from initiating legislation on referenda

The Assembly's plan to approve a new law on Recall Referendums to expedite the whole process? You didn't seriously think chavismo would allow that, did you?

Members of Bolivarian National Guard of Venezuela walk into the National Electoral Council (CNE) headquarters in Caracas, on December 5, 2015. For the first time in 16 years of "Bolivarian revolution" under late president Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro, polls show their rivals could now win a majority in the National Assembly. AFP PHOTO / LUIS ROBAYO / AFP / LUIS ROBAYO

Eugenio Martínez has this bombshell scoop on his Twitter account tonight:

According to @puzkas – and he’s generally right on this stuff – the government-controlled National Elections Council has officially told the National Assembly that it retains the exclusive right to legislative initiative on laws relating to elections and referendums.

The claim comes in the context of the National Assembly’s move to approve a new law on how Recall Referendums can be called and carried out. The National Assembly’s bill wouldn’t supercede any preceeding law on the subject, since chavismo didn’t find 17 years in control of the legislative branch (1999-2016) to be quite long enough to ever get around to legislating on the matter.

Once you’ve established clearly that the constitution not actually saying a thing is no bar to you saying the constitution says a thing, the sky’s the limit.

Instead, any new law would replace a regulation CNE approved to make up for the legal vacuum – Resolution N° 070327-34, published in the Gaceta Electoral Nº 369, on April 13th, 2007. 

So CNE is claiming that the Assembly does not have the right to initiate the process of approving a new law to supercede the regulations CNE conjured out of thin air, alleging they had to do something because the Assembly had failed to legsislate on the matter. ¿Estamos claros?

This is – it’s almost superfluous to say – an entirely made-up new power CNE is attributing to itself. Nowhere in the Constitution’s Article 293 will you find any norm barring the National Assembly from taking the initiative to propose a bill on electoral matters.

But it doesn’t matter, because it’s the Supreme Tribunal’s Electoral Chamber that will rule who’s right on what the Constitution says or doesn’t say about this. And who are you going to believe when the time comes to deciding what the constitution says about this, Christian Zerpa, the Diosdadista former PSUV-assembly member who failed to win re-election in December and got appointed to the Supreme Tribunal’s Electoral Chamber, actually voting in favor of himself from the Assembly Floor, or your lyin’ eyes?

Once you’ve established clearly that the constitution not actually saying a thing is no bar to you saying the constitution says a thing, the sky’s the limit.

Look, it’s easy to get infuriated over this kind of plainly, transparently illegal shenanigan. But it’s also possible to overdo it. Moves like this are just the Nth reminder that you cannot force the chavista state to fold against its will. Barring a violent, disorderly regime collapse – which nobody can seriously want – you’re going to have to cut a deal with these guys, because they retain enough institutional power to block any move made without their consent.

It’s gross. But it’s like that.