What Could Venezuela’s Opposition Do With a Simple, 3/5, or 2/3 Majority?

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Geoff Ramsey

While polls in recent weeks have led many analysts to expect Venezuela’s opposition to gain a majority of the 167 seats in the 2015-2020 National Assembly, the exact nature of this majority could vary widely. The Venezuelan Constitution requires different thresholds of votes in order for the National Assembly to pass certain measures. These thresholds can be grouped into three categories: those requiring a simple majority, those requiring a “qualified majority” of three-fifths of the Assembly, and those requiring an absolute two-thirds majority.

With a simple majority of more than 50 percent of the National Assembly (84 members), the opposition can: 

  • Issue a vote of no confidence in the Vice President and cabinet Ministers
  • Investigate and question public officials
  • Have a deciding role in the national budget and debt debates 
  • Approve an amnesty law 
  • Select the members of the Supreme Court of Justice 
  • Approve laws on health, justice and basic goods 
  • Name ambassadors 
  • Convene national referendums on matters of special importance and amendments to the Constitution (with National Assembly approval) 
  • Attribute to states or municipalities certain issues that currently fall under national competence 
  • Authorize the President to leave the country (for 5 days) 
  • Elect the President of the National Assembly, and its two Vice Presidents 
  • Indict congressmen 

With a qualified majority of 3/5 of the National Assembly (101 members), the opposition can:

  • Decide that a vote of no confidence in the Vice President or cabinet Ministers should lead to their dismissal, and subsequently dismiss them
  • Authorize presidential decrees allowing expanded executive authority (so-called “enabling laws” or “leyes habilitantes”
  • Appoint members of the National Electoral Council (CNE)
  • Remove members of the CNE, provided it is backed by a ruling by the Supreme Court

With an absolute majority of 2/3 the National Assembly (112 members), the opposition can:

  • Remove Supreme Court justices in cases of gross misconduct
  • Subject any bills under discussion in the National Assembly to approval by referendum
  • Convene a National Constituent Assembly, as well as a recall referendum for President Maduro
  • Submit international treaties, conventions or agreements to referendums
  • Pass and modify any draft organic law  (laws which determine the fundamental political principles of a government)