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Chávez's inauguration in Venezuela postponed. Is that legal? (+video)

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“There is one strict date that cannot be modified,” says Luis Salamanca, a professor of constitutional law at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas. “A new period is ending, and another one is beginning.” Mr. Salamanca says the swearing-in is more than just a formality.

It is the moment of the inauguration that “Chavez would be granted the legal authority to be president,” he says.

What exactly does the Constitution say?

There are three relevant articles of the Constitution that apply to this case. Article 231, translated by the BBC in English here, reads:

The president-elect shall take office on 10 January 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 defines the “absolute absence” of the president as:

His or her death; resignation; removal from office by a Supreme Court judgement; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board appointed by the Supreme Court and approved by the National Assembly; abandoning office, as declared by the National Assembly; and revocation by popular vote.

It goes on to say:

When there is an absolute absence of the president-elect before taking office, there shall be a new election by universal, direct and secret vote within the next 30 consecutive days. Pending the election and inauguration of the new president, the president of the National Assembly will assume responsibility for the presidency of the Republic.

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