Hugo Chavez allies 'rule out new election'
Venezuela will not call fresh elections if President Hugo Chavez is unable to be sworn in on 10 January for a fourth term, National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello has said.
Mr Chavez is recovering from a respiratory infection suffered after his fourth cancer surgery in Cuba.
The constitution states that elections must be held within 30 days if there is an "absolute absence" of the president.
Opposition leaders say postponing the inauguration would be unconstitutional.
Mr Cabello said the swearing-in ceremony would be delayed in the case of Mr Chavez's absence.
"The date of 10 January does not determine the president-elect's absolute absence," Mr Cabello told reporters.
The Venezuelan constitution states that a president shall be considered "absolutely absent" for a number of reasons including death, resignation or removal from office by the Supreme Court, as well as permanent physical or mental disability.
- Article 231: The president-elect shall take office on January 10 of the first year of their constitutional term, by taking an oath before the National Assembly. If for any reason, (they) cannot be sworn in before the National Assembly, they shall take the oath of office before the Supreme Court.
- Article 233:(...) When an elected President becomes absolutely absent prior to inauguration, a new election...shall be held within 30 days.
- Article 234: When the President is temporarily unable to serve, they shall be replaced by the Executive Vice-President for a period of up to 90 days, which may be extended by resolution of the National Assembly for an additional 90 days.
"Since [President] Chavez might not be here on 10 January, [the opposition] hopes the National Assembly will call elections. That's not going to happen. Commandante Hugo Chavez will continue to be our president," Mr Cabello said.
According to Mr Cabello, the constitution allows him to be sworn in before Supreme Court justices, but it does not stipulating when or where.
Mr Chavez is said to be in stable condition following a respiratory infection suffered after he underwent major cancer surgery last Tuesday.
Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas said the infection had been controlled, but that Mr Chavez had been told to rest.
The president, who has been in power since 1999, won another six-year term in October's presidential election.
Mr Chavez has said Venezuelans should vote for Vice-President Nicolas Maduro in fresh elections, should his health fail.