Venezuela's opposition-held Congress extends term after disputed vote

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition-held National Assembly passed a bill on Saturday following a controversial December 6 election in which allies of President Nicolas Maduro's ruling Socialist Party won 91% of the seats in Congress, which will cancel their term in office extended until 2021.
The four main opposition parties in the South American country boycotted the parliamentary vote, arguing that the conditions for a free and fair election were not met. Most western democracies, including the United States, said they did not recognize the election results.
Saturday's vote paves the way for opposition leader Juan Guaido, recognized by dozens of countries as the legitimate leader of the crisis-hit OPEC nation, to maintain his role as speaker of parliament. Guaido's almost two-year attempt to oust Maduro, whom he describes as a dictator, was unsuccessful.
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"Despite the threats of the dictatorship and the intimidation of the regime, Parliament will continue at this extraordinary time," Guaido said on Saturday.
The statute provides for a small group of legislators to carry out the tasks of the National Assembly. The change comes because dozens of lawmakers have fled the country or are unwilling to continue serving in Congress next year, which they describe as a government threat.
Members of one of the four major parties in the Guaido coalition, Democratic Action, abstained because they did not support the delegation of parliamentary functions to a small group.
Maduro, who calls Guaido a US puppet who seeks to oust him through a coup, said the election was transparent and indicates that several opposition candidates had participated. Guaido says these candidates are shadow allies of the government.
The socialist-controlled congress is due to be sworn in on January 5, 2021.
(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago; writing by Luc Cohen in Caracas; editing by Matthew Lewis)
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