Venezuela Supreme Court Holds Chavez Does Not Need To Take Constitutional Oath. John Roberts Could Not Be Reached For Comment

January 10th, 2013

All jokes about “The Oath” aside, this discussion of the Venezuelan Constitution is really interesting:

Supreme Court President Luisa Estela Morales said Wednesday that Chavez’s absence is acceptable given that his service will be uninterrupted and therefore does not fall under constitutional guidelines that could have forced him to attend the swearing-in ceremony or relinquish power.

“Although Jan. 10 marks the beginning of a new constitutional period, a new swearing-in of the president is not necessary in [Chavez’s] status as president-elect because there is no interruption in the exercise of his authority,” Morales said. Chavez “is not a new president who has to take possession, he is the president whose performance has been approved by the people.”

The Venezuelan Constitution calls for presidents to be sworn in at the National Assembly on Jan. 10, but also provides an alternative in which the Supreme Court conducts the inauguration “if for any unforeseen reason” the congressional ceremony cannot take place. To have the Supreme Court administer the oath or delay the swearing-in, the president-elect must ask for a temporary postponement.

But, the resident con law expert of Venezuela is not persuaded:

Constitutional law expert Armando Rodriguez Garcia said there were “inconsistencies” in the ruling, noting that the constitutional clause requiring the oath “covers the institution, not the person.” Chavez’s current term, and thus his authority, ends Thursday and he must be sworn in to resume it, the professor said.

“If Chavez is unable to be sworn in tomorrow, then power must transfer to the legislative branch in the person of the president of the National Assembly so that there is no power vacuum,” said Rodriguez Garcia, a Central University of Venezuela faculty member who was one of 38 law professors who signed a petition Tuesday saying Chavez’s absence from the ceremony would be unconstitutional.