In a step toward ousting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the economically suffering nation’s opposition-majority Congress passed a resolution Monday stating that the socialist leader had “abandoned his post,” Reuters reported. The move followed months of effort by the opposition group, which dominated 2015 congressional elections, to hold a referendum on Maduro’s removal from the office the former bus driver has held since his predecessor Hugo Chavez died in October 2012.

The resolution also came one day before a crucial deadline. The country’s National Electoral Council, a supposedly independent government branch presiding over Venezuelan elections, had set the date of Jan. 10 as the final day on which a referendum could lead to a new presidential vote following a recall. Instead, if the opposition is successful in initiating its referendum and removing Maduro from office, he will be succeeded by his staunchly loyal vice president, Tareck El Aissami, appointed by Maduro about a week earlier.

About two-thirds of Venezuelans want Maduro out of office, according to a March poll. After serving as acting president in the wake of Chavez’s death, he was elected in April 2013 for a six-year term.

“The most important thing is that [the resolution] demands an electoral solution to Venezuela’s crisis, so that the people can express themselves through the vote,” Venezuelan Congress President Julio Borges said, according to the newswire.

The vice president of Maduro’s Socialist Party, Diosdado Cabello, disputed the allegations that the president had left his post, telling reporters that Maduro would neither resign, nor “recognize a disobedient legislature,” Reuters reported.

Maduro has fought to improve his crime- and shortage-ridden country’s ailing economy in recent months, combatting hyperinflation with 50 percent minimum wage hike Sunday and joining the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in an agreement to cut oil output last month, effectively gouging the price of the commodity that has accounted for as much as a quarter of Venezuela’s miniscule gross domestic product.

The sharp drop in global oil prices since mid-2014 has worsened Venezuela’s economic crisis, forcing citizens to wait in long lines for rationed goods, including everything from flour to medicine. Hours ahead of the congressional vote, Maduro announced somber news for the country’s barren marketplace: As his administration placed foreign debt obligations above solving shortage problems, imports to the country dropped more than 50 percent, according to Reuters, to $18 billion in 2016, which Maduro called “the hardest, longest and most difficult year we have known.”