Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. Picture: REUTERS
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. Picture: REUTERS

Caracas — Venezuela’s opposition postponed a protest against a powerful new assembly backed by President Nicolás Maduro until the body opens on Friday, amid international condemnation and a fraud investigation.

The Democratic Unity Roundtable said the protest would coincide with the planned opening of the controversial Constituent Assembly, which Maduro announced would be delayed until Friday.

The group said its protest was "to defend the constitution".

The new 545-member body — members include Maduro’s wife and son — will have powers to dissolve the opposition-led congress, pass laws and write a new constitution for Venezuela.

Despite months of violent protests and international condemnation, Maduro insists it is the solution to a drawn-out economic and political crisis gripping the country.

The leftist leader said the assembly would open "in peace and calm" at 11am on Friday.

Opposition legislators, who have a majority in the National Assembly, say they would not recognise "the fraudulent and illegitimate" new assembly.

Voting for the assembly took place on Sunday amid spiralling violence that killed 10 people, pushing the toll in four months of clashes at anti-Maduro protests to more than 125 deaths.

Attorney-general Luisa Ortega opened an investigation into what she called scandalous electoral fraud after the technology firm hired to handle the vote said the official results had been "tampered with" to make turnout appear greater than it was.

Ortega said the company’s assessment was just "one more element of the fraudulent, illegal and unconstitutional process" initiated by the socialist ruler.

The electoral authority denied the allegation of vote-tampering as "an irresponsible contention based on estimates with no grounding in the data".

Sunday’s vote brought the crisis to a boiling point, drawing international condemnation.

The US has imposed sanctions on Maduro, calling him a "dictator", while the EU, US, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina said they would not recognise the new assembly.

AFP

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