Venezuela’s National Assembly has approved a request by President Hugo Chavez to postpone his inauguration for a new term in office, which was scheduled for Thursday, January 10.
Hugo Chavez is in hospital in Cuba after cancer surgery, and has suffered complications caused by a lung infection.
Legislators voted to give Hugo Chavez as much time as he needs to recover.
He has not been seen in public since his last operation a month ago.
Earlier, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro had confirmed that Hugo Chavez would be unable to attend the ceremony.
Venezuela’s opposition has called for the Supreme Court to rule on what should be done if Hugo Chavez is absent.
Its leader, Henrique Capriles, says Hugo Chavez should be declared absent, with the speaker of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, taking over as interim president.
President Hugo Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, was re-elected in October for a fourth term.
The government insists that the inauguration is a mere formality for an incumbent leader.
After weeks of speculation, Diosdado Cabello announced to legislators that Hugo Chavez had requested to be sworn in at a later date before the Supreme Court, according to Article 231 of the Constitution.
“On the recommendation of his medical team, the process of post-operation recuperation will have to be prolonged beyond 10 January, [as a result of which] he will be unable to present himself on this date to the National Assembly,” he said, reading a letter from Vice President Nicolas Maduro.
On Monday, Diosdado Cabello called on Hugo Chavez supporters to take to the streets of Caracas on Thursday to show support for him.
He said several foreign leaders had agreed to be at the Miraflores Presidential Palace on inauguration day.
But Henrique Capriles urged them to stay away and not succumb to “a game by a political party”, meaning Hugo Chavez’s ruling party.
In his most recent update on Hugo Chavez, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said his condition was “stable”, and he was “responding to the treatment”.
- Article 231: The president-elect shall take office on January 10 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:(…) 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.
- 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.
- Article 234: When the president is temporarily unable to serve, they 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.