Congress' speaker shall take office in the absence of president-elect
Attorney at law Manuel Rachadell expresses his views on the presidential succession in Venezuela in 2013
If the Venezuelan president-elect does not take office next January 10 in default of a formal explanation for his full absence, the Congress' speaker must stand in for him.
This is the thought of attorney at law Manuel Rachadell, whose opinion is very likely to become reality considering the Venezuelan constitutional system.
Based on the analysis of absence of President Hugo Chávez due to health problems, and in the light of the Constitution currently enforced, Rachadell reckons it is compelling to determine the constitutional regime of the presidential succession. It is quite clear that next January 10, the Venezuelan president will end his current term in office and on that very same date, his next term begins.
Only two things may alter such eventual situations: the full absence of the president, which as provided for in the Constitution leads to new elections in the next 30 days and the Congress' speaker acceptance of the presidential duties until elections are held (Article 233); and that the elected president's incapability may refrain him from being sworn in for the new presidential term without having expressed or announced his full absence. In the latter case, "there will be a regulatory gap in the Constitution considering that it does not provide for the temporary absence of the president-elect."
The expert explains that as the law does not accept any gaps, the Constitutional Court of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) shall construe the substitution's regime in the second scenario and this may lead to the following: the vice-president takes office temporarily in the absence of the president, because it is his responsibility "to replace the President of the Republic when the latter is temporarily absent" (Article 239, eight paragraph); or that the Congress' speaker holds the presidential incumbency. If this is the case, it will be founded on the following:
"The Constitution does not provide for the temporary absence of an elected president because in a strict definition such temporary absence does not exist; instead, there is a citizen elected for a presidential position who has not been sworn in. How long will the corresponding ceremony wait? Until one of the following scenarios take place: a full absence such as death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Court of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly, et al." (Article 233).
Rachadell points out that temporary absence is triggered once the elected person has been sworn in, before that that person shall not be deemed president and, therefore, his absence shall not be replaced by the vice-president of the former period. "There is no such thing like the temporary absence of the president, but a Constitutional Power that lacks a representative in the presidential office."
Furthermore, the attorney at law states that under the current legislation, although reelection is allowed, other government officials may not keep holding office. "It would be a mock on the Constitution that the vice-president of the former period holds the interim presidential position and be able, in his new position as president, run for president in the election." Moreover, his appointment would have expired.
Translated by Jhean Cabrera
Cristian Fonseca, a businessman in La Candelaria district downtown Caracas, was doing the accounts in his small shop office on Sunday December 21, 2008. The Christmas shopping season kept him working late hours into the night. It was around 11 p.m. and his phone rang. A friend broke the bad news to him over the telephone.