On Sunday, Venezuelans took to the streets to either vote in or boycott a controversial election to choose members of an all-powerful Constituent Assembly. The new assembly will be made up completely of government supporters but will have authority over the lives of all Venezuelans. The vote came in the midst of a constitutional crisis. For four months, there have been widespread protests, repression and failed negotiations as the government of President Nicolás Maduro battles the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition. Here are five key questions and answers about Sunday’s vote. The government said it was to bring peace to the conflicted country, but it was widely seen as a move to avoid holding other scheduled elections that the government expected to lose — including elections for governors and mayors in 2017 and for president in 2018.
The government’s approval rating has hovered around 20 percent because of the weakening economy, shortages of food and medicine, and the Supreme Court’s controversial decision to curtail the authority of the legislature. The resulting protests have left more than 100 dead, and at least 10 more died during Sunday’s vote.
President Hugo Chávez established a similar body in 1999 that was intended to give the people “originary” power. Venezuelan constituent assemblies have the authority not only to change the constitution but also to dismiss existing officials and institutions.
The newly elected assembly is expected to dismiss the rebellious attorney general and perhaps even the opposition-dominated legislature. On Sunday night, Maduro called on the assembly to lift the immunity of legislators and to hold them accountable via a new Truth and Reparations Commission. This has led to fears of yet more recrimination and repression.