Backgrounder: Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-24 15:16:10|Editor: Yamei
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CARACAS, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelans are expected to vote Sunday on the creation of a National Constituent Assembly (ANC), which is tasked of reviewing and possibly rewriting the constitution, as the country has been paralyzed by a prolonged political crisis over this thorny issue.

The initiative to establish the ANC has sparked huge controversy. The opposition refused to talk to the government unless it drops the vote, and has launched a nationwide strike which turned into sporadic violence.

The United States has threatened to put additional sanctions if Caracas does not cancel the vote.

The followings are basic facts about the ANC:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro proposed the establishment of the ANC in May to review and amend the constitution, aiming to break the political gridlock that has paralyzed the nation and fueled a new wave of violent anti-government protests which started in April.

According to article 347, 348 and 349 of the constitution, the president, the legislature and the people have the right to call for a constituent assembly "to transform the state, create a new legal system and draw up a new Constitution."

Registered voters are set to cast their ballots on Sunday for 545 members of the assembly. In the ANC, 364 seats represent the country's different regions, and the other 181 will represent different sectors of society, including workers, farmers, students, the disabled, the business sector, pensioners, communes and communal councils.

There are more than 6,000 candidates, with about 2,500 of them representing their sectors and about 3,500 representing their regions.

The ANC will refer a draft constitution to a referendum.

The coalition of right-wing parties, known by its Spanish acronym MUD, said it would join the national dialogue which it abandoned last year, if Maduro scraps the ANC initiative.

The U.S. government, which backs Venezuela's conservative camp, has demanded that the Sunday vote be called off.

On Monday, a White House statement warned: "If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions."

The MUD, which alleged Maduro aims to consolidate his power through the new constitution, has stepped up pressure to thwart the initiative by organizing a general strike and street protests.