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article imageVenezuela opposition governors refuse to be sworn in

By AFP     Oct 18, 2017 in World

Venezuela's opposition said its newly-elected governors would refuse to participate Wednesday in a swearing in ceremony before the pro-government Constituent Assembly, which it does not recognize.

The Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) said it would not allow its five governors to be subjected to "the blackmail of the fraudulent Constituent Assembly" after President Nicolas Maduro threatened to remove them from office if they refused.

"We will only be sworn in before God and the respective legislative councils and not before the fraudulent Constituent Assembly," the MUD said in a statement shortly before a special swearing-in session convened at the legislative palace.

The opposition had previously said it would not participate but doubts remained until shortly before the ceremony because of internal divisions.

It was unclear early Wednesday whether the refusal would mean the governors are dismissed as Maduro has threatened, and if so, who would replace them.

However, constitutional specialist Jose Vincent Haro said there was no obligation to go before the assembly. "According to the constitution of each state they must be sworn in before the legislative council of their state."

The results of Sunday's closely-watched regional elections were a crushing blow for the opposition coaliton, which had characterized the elections as a referendum on Maduro after months of deadly street protests earlier this year failed to unseat him.

Maduro created the Constituent Assembly in July to bypass the opposition-dominated parliament, packing it with his allies.

International powers have condemned the creation of the assembly, and accuse Maduro of dismantling democracy by taking over state institutions in the wake of an economic collapse caused by the fall in the price of oil, its main source of revenue.

The government took 18 states in Sunday's elections and the MUD only five, despite opinion polls putting it ahead in as many as 18 states.

The oppostion coalition, which accuses the National Electoral Council of being a vehicle of the government, rejected the result and called for a full audit of the electoral process, saying it was riddled with "irregularities."

An immediate consequence of the poll is the opposition's refusal to hold talks with the government on ending the country's political and economic crisis without a full recount of the vote.

"We will not take part in exploratory talks or negotiations unless (the authorities) agree to a recount," said Angel Oropeza, one of the MUD coalition's leaders.

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