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

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If the absence of the president of the Republic occurs during the first four years of the constitutional period, there shall be a new election by universal, direct and secret vote within 30 consecutive days. Pending the election and inauguration of the new president, the executive vice-president will be responsible for the presidency of the Republic.

Finally, Article 234 says: “When the president is temporarily unable to serve, [he/she] 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.”

So why all of the divided views?

While the Constitution describes what should happen if the inauguration is missed, and what to do if a president is “permanently absent,” it does not define what to do in the case of a temporary absence in a moment of transition. As a microcosm of the polarization that has marked the Andean nation under Chávez's leadership, the views of what should happen vary widely. Allies of Chávez argue that the opposition is using his delicate health to take the presidency away from him, undermining the clear wishes of a citizenry who reelected Chávez in Oct. 7 elections.

The opposition says that the Chávez government is violating the Constitution for political purposes. Instead of naming the national assembly leader as temporary president, they have called for a rally on Thursday to underline the support for Chávez. Part of the motive may be timing, Salamanca says, to give Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Chávez's preferred successor and the person who is in charge while Chávez is absent, a chance to become a more well-known political figure if new elections are eventually called.

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