Venezuela's Supreme Court has upheld an indefinite delay of President Hugo Chavez's inauguration to a new six-year term, saying his current administration can continue in office as an interim administration.
The January 9 ruling by the seven-judge panel came in response to a challenge by opposition lawmakers who want a new election to be held because Chavez is unable to attend an inauguration ceremony scheduled for January 10 in accordance with Venezuela's constitution.
The 58-year old Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, is recovering in Cuba from surgery for an undisclosed type of cancer.
The pro-Chavez majority in parliament voted on January 8 to allow delay the swearing-in ceremony until Chavez is fit enough to return to Caracas.
The pro-Chavez majority in the National Assembly accepted a request that the president be sworn in at a later date before the Supreme Court.
The request came in a letter sent to parliament by Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who is seen as the most likely successor to Chavez.
"The comandante president has asked us to inform you that, in accordance with the recommendations of the medical team that is taking care of reestablishing his health, the process of postoperative recovery will extend further than January 10 of this year," parliament speaker Diosdado Cabello said in reading out Maduro's request before the National Assembly.
"Because of this, he will not be able to appear on that day in front of the National Assembly constituting an irrefutable, unexpected reason because of which we invoke Article 231 of the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela with the purpose to formalize at a further date a swearing-in corresponding to the Supreme Court."
Chavez had surgery on December 11 in Cuba -- his fourth operation since he was diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. He has suffered complications caused by a lung infection.
Information Minister Ernesto Villegas on January 7 said Chavez's condition was "stable."
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP