Venezuela’s opposition boycotted a swearing-in ceremony Wednesday for governors held by the all-powerful, pro-government constitutional assembly following disputed elections largely won by ruling party candidates. Eighteen new socialist governors stood, lifted one hand and pledged to uphold Venezuela’s constitution in the ceremony at the assembly’s chamber. A painting of the late President Hugo Chavez stood nearby. Notably absent were the five opposition candidates who won seats in Sunday’s regional elections. The opposition’s alliance said earlier in the day that it would boycott the session before a body they consider unconstitutional. “They will only pledge before God and their respective legislative councils,” the opposition said in a statement.
President Nicolas Maduro warned before the vote that any new governors would have to take an oath and “submit” to the constitutional assembly — an act opposition candidates said they would never do.
The assembly, which is supposed to rewrite the constitution, was elected in July following an internationally condemned vote that the opposition refused to participate in, and officials have given it virtually unlimited powers.
The official announcement that socialist party candidates won 18 of 23 governor races shocked an opposition that had expected to win handily during a time of economic crisis and when polls indicate most Venezuelans disapprove of the government.