Venezuela’s National Assembly announced this morning that it is prepared to pass the Enabling Law, (Ley Habilitante) that will award President Hugo Chávez the power to legislate by executive decree once the new Congress convenes on January 5. The Assembly’s declaration is a nod to Chávez’ stated intention to seek such authority.
President Chávez insists that he needs to bypass typical legislative procedure to respond swiftly to the recent national floods that have resulted in 40 deaths, 130,000 displaced persons and tens of millions of dollars in damages. He has previously indicated that he will use his expanded decree to further regulate the Internet and increase the national value-added tax. Analysts also suspect additional measures that will precede the 2012 presidential election, for which Chávez has already announced his candidacy for re-election.
The current Assembly has entered a lame-duck phase after parliamentary elections in September saw a large shift in voter preferences. Chávez’ party, Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), lost 41 seats while a coalition of opposition parties—under the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) label—gained 61. Although the PSUV will remain in the majority come January, a two-thirds consensus is required to pass sweeping reforms. The MUD will occupy over 40 percent of seats in the next Assembly, effectively blocking such measures.