Venezuela's opposition-controlled Congress has given preliminary approval to a bill that would put the country on the road to a presidential recall referendum.

During the floor debate Thursday, opposition lawmakers said they hope the initiative leads to a peaceful transition of power this year.

Members of the ruling socialist party, which controls the presidency and most state institutions, said the legislation amounted to an attempted coup.

Congress is expected to give the bill final approval later this month.

A recall is one of several strategies the opposition is pursuing to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office. They blame him for the widespread shortages, deep recession and raging inflation plaguing Venezuela.

The opposition is also calling for street protests starting this Saturday and a constitutional amendment that would shorten Maduro's term.