Venezuela to boost number of legislators in National Assembly in 2021

(Reuters) - Venezuela will boost the number of seats in its National Assembly by two-thirds to 277 for the 2021-2026 period, the head of the country's electoral authority said, ahead of an election the opposition says President Nicolas Maduro is trying to rig.

Indira Alfonzo, who was named chief of the National Electoral Council (CNE) by the Maduro-friendly Supreme Court earlier this month, said on state television the increase was necessary due to a surge in the number of political parties slated to participate in the 2020 parliamentary elections.

The legislature currently has 167 legislators, and the increase to 277 will go into effect with the next parliament.

The opposition has criticized the Supreme Court's naming of Alfonzo and four other new CNE members, as well as a court ruling ousting the leaders of two key opposition parties and replacing them with politicians accused of being shadow allies of the ruling Socialist Party, as evidence the elections will not be fair.

The parliamentary elections are due by the end of the year, but the CNE has not yet announced an exact date. The opposition has held a majority in the congress for the previous five-year period.

Any loss of control of the parliament would complicate the standing of National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido, who is recognized as Venezuela's rightful leader by dozens of Western countries as a result of his position. Guaido and allies accuse Maduro of rigging his 2018 re-election.

Maduro has overseen an economic collapse in the once-prosperous OPEC nation, triggering a humanitarian crisis that has seen millions of Venezuelans emigrate from the country.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)