Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday proposed early elections for the National Assembly, which is headed by opposition leader Juan Guaido and is the sole body recognized as democratically legitimate by most Western nations.
The opposition won a majority in the National Assembly in 2015 and the next congressional elections are currently scheduled for late 2020. Maduro did not give an exact new date, and he has previously said he would shift them earlier, without following through.
In a speech at a pro-government rally, Maduro said “we will legitimize the sole institution which has not been legitimized in the last five years”.
Most western nations have recognized Guaido as the country’s rightful head of state, after Maduro won re-election last year in a vote widely deemed fraudulent, and stacked other state bodies with loyalists.
Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, denouncing Maduro as a usurper whose failed state-led policies had plunged Venezuela into its deepest-ever economic recession.
Maduro accuses Guaido of staging a US-backed coup against his socialist administration and says he will face justice.
Maduro retains control of state functions and the support of the military’s top brass, as well as allies Russia, Cuba and China.