Venezuelan court overturns congress decision to allow virtual votes

Judges of the constitutional section of Venezuela's Supreme Court attend a meeting, in Caracas

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a decision by the opposition-run congress that allowed lawmakers to vote virtually after a government crackdown pushed dozens of legislators out of the country or into hiding.

Magistrate Juan José Mendoza announced the ruling that voting remotely on legislation violates the Venezuelan constitution which requires a lawmaker be present. Mendoza also urged the Prosecutor's Office to investigate the National Assembly's decision on Tuesday, citing potential criminal conduct.

National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó is seeking reelection on Jan. 5, a year after invoking the Constitution to be interim president on the grounds that President Nicolas Maduro was re-elected in fraudulent elections. Government opponents accuse Maduro of trying to close the only institution controlled by the opposition.

About 30 National Assembly opposition members are abroad or in hiding due to judicial proceedings that government critics say are aimed at silencing adversaries. Previously, the legislature could not approve measures without the physical presence of 50% of the legislators or their substitutes.

On Wednesday three legislators who split from the opposition amid allegations of accepting bribes from the ruling Socialist party asked the Supreme Court to void the National Assembly decision.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Writing by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Richard Chang)