Venezuela top court ousts leaders of Guaido's party ahead of vote

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s pro-government supreme court on Tuesday ousted the leaders of opposition leader Juan Guaido’s Popular Will political party, the latest in a series of interventions in opposition parties ahead of Dec. 6 legislative elections.

Guaido – who invoked his position as congress’ speaker to assume an interim presidency in early 2019, arguing President Nicolas Maduro rigged his re-election – has called on opposition parties to boycott the December vote due to expected tampering by the unpopular Maduro, who has overseen an economic collapse.

The court named a politician who was expelled from Popular Will earlier this year under accusations of being a shadow ally of the ruling Socialist Party as the new party leader, a move that mirrors its interventions in the Democratic Action and First Justice opposition parties last month.

It has also named directors to the National Electoral Council (CNE), a responsibility the constitution ascribes to the National Assembly. The new CNE leadership proceeded to increase the number of seats in parliament to 277, from 167 currently, citing a population increase in a country where some 5 million people have emigrated to escape crushing poverty.

Leopoldo Lopez, Voluntad Popular’s leader, said the party would not obey “dictatorial impositions.”

“Our posture is that we cannot fight for free elections while participating in electoral frauds and farses,” Lopez wrote on Twitter.

A loss of control of parliament by the opposition could complicate Guaido’s international standing. He is recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate leader by dozens of western democracies, including the United States and much of Latin America and Europe.

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