Caracas (VZA– Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro proposed holding early parliamentary elections as a way to defuse the country’s political crisis.

“Let’s see who gets the most votes! Let’s find a political, constitutional and democratic path forward,” Maduro said at the end of a march on Monday commemorating the anniversary of his reelection on May 20, 2018, to a new six-year term.

He added that he would dedicate all his efforts to secure a “peace agreement” with the opposition while thanking the Venezuelan people for their struggle and commitment to peace.

Elections for Venezuela’s National Assembly are not due to take place until 2020. However, the legislative body has been declared in contempt by the Supreme Court, and all its decisions “null and void,” after it defied a judicial order to unseat three lawmakers accused of electoral fraud in the December 2015 contest.

Venezuela’s political crisis escalated significantly after National Assembly President Juan Guaido proclaimed himself “interim president” on January 23, immediately receiving the backing of the United States and its allies.

Related: Guaido’s True Colors: “President” to Fix Venezuelan Relations with Israel

Guaido and the Venezuelan opposition have tried to oust the Maduro government, most recently through a failed military putsch on April 30, while the US Treasury Department has imposed successive rounds of economic sanctions on the country. Reports emerged last week of a renewed dialogue initiative between the government and the opposition, mediated by Norway, but no details of the negotiations have been made public.

Venezuela’s opposition rejected the proposal, with Guaido calling it “cynical” on Tuesday and reiterating his call for the armed forces to “take a step forward” and support him.

Maduro’s proposal came on the heels of the country’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) voting to extend its mandate “at least” until December 31, 2020.

ANC member Pedro Carreno said that the body must continue to “assume the work of the opposition deputies,” referring to the fact that the ANC has assumed the day-to-day legislative functions given the National Assembly’s legal status. It is not clear whether legislative elections being brought forward would affect this decision.

The ANC was elected on July 30, 2017, convened by Maduro with the expressed aim of finding a negotiated solution to the heightening confrontation with the opposition marked by to the spiraling street the violent street protests that left over 100 dead. The elections were boycotted by the main opposition political coalition, which insisted on early presidential elections. The ANC initially set out a two year period to write a new draft of the Venezuelan constitution, which would then need to be approved in a referendum.

This post was originally written for and published by Venezuelanalysis and appears here under a creative commons license.

Image: Venezuelan Presidential Press

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