Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has asked his country’s National Assembly to give him special decree-making powers that he says he needs to fight corruption and economic sabotage.
The opposition says Maduro is seeking excessive powers and is following in the footsteps of his late mentor, Hugo Chavez.
Chavez was granted similar powers four times during his 14 years as president. In all, Chavez used the power to enact 200 legal changes that strengthened state control over Venezuela’s economy.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles says giving Maduro decree power will not end food shortages and will only strengthen the hand of an executive he calls incompetent.
Capriles narrowly lost the April presidential election to Maduro.
Maduro’s ruling Socialist party holds 98 seats in the Assembly and the president needs the support of just one more lawmakers to get the three-fifths majority needed to be granted the powers that he formally requested on Tuesday.
“Critics say that all this is going to do is to allow him to harass the opposition even further, and […] he says this is to allow him to clamp down on corruption and quite serious economic problems here in Venezuela,” said Girish Gupta, a Caracas-based journalist, ahead of the vote.
Gupta said the vote may be an attempt to shore up support within Maduro’s own party.
“Maduro is not Hugo Chavez, and that’s been very evident over the last few months since Chavez died. Maduro has made some serious gaffes, and his popularity even among Chavista supporters […] is not particularly high and its getting a lot lower.”