CARACAS, Venezuela: President Nicolas Maduro is not on the ballot for Sunday’s election in Venezuela and governors and winners of local races are unlikely to go beyond the borders of his country. But regional elections could play a key role in determining whether the South American country can find a way out of its years of political impasse.
The stakes for local competitions were raised when earlier this year the main opposition parties agreed to participate for the first time since 2017, a decision that came amid now-suspended talks between the government and opponents. Venezuelan officials agreed at the same time to the presence of independent international observers, including the European Union, a long-standing demand of opponents of the socialist government.
Now, the electoral authorities and the system they oversee will be tested years later, including their decisions to disqualify parties and some of the most popular opposition candidates. More than 21 million Venezuelans are eligible to vote in more than 3,000 contests, including 23 governorships and 335 mayorships. Over 70,000 candidates entered the race.
The elections are incredibly important because they represent a time when the opposition has agreed to participate, albeit divided over the value of doing so, said Cynthia Aronson, director of the Latin American program at the Wilson Center in Washington. It represents evidence of an incremental step towards electoral participation.
Opposition parties have grouped in a so-called unitary platform and boycotted previous elections led by Juan Guede, in which Maduro was re-elected as president in May 2018, arguing that the conditions of free and fair competition in Venezuela were violated. There is a lack. However, some smaller opposition organizations opposed and participated in the boycott, as some did in the 2020 legislative elections last year, despite the boycott being supported by Guad.
The US and other countries have withdrawn their recognition of Maduro after accusing him of rigging his recent re-election as president. In his place, he recognized Guad, the head of the then opposition-dominated Congress. But domestic and international support for Guaid has faded, and less than 10 of the more than 60 countries that once recognized Guaid’s self-declared government still maintain that recognition.
Sunday’s election could mark the emergence of new opposition leaders, bolstering coalitions and drawing lines followed by Maduros opponents, who have been marred by internal fractures in these elections, which often lead to heirs from power. Therein lies their frustration at not being able to knock. Late President Hugo Chavez.
More than 130 EU delegates will fan out across Venezuela to observe election conditions such as fairness, media access, campaign activities and candidates’ disqualification. He is expected to release a preliminary report early next week and an in-depth look next year.
It is the first time in 15 years that an EU observer is in Venezuela. In previous elections, foreign observation was compulsorily carried out by multilateral and regional electoral organizations close to the Venezuelan executive.
We’re going to describe what we’ve seen, we’re going to make recommendations for elections based on international principles, and we don’t think in any way that we’re legalizing or illegalizing (elections), Xabier Meilen, Deputy Chief Observer said of the EU Election Observation Mission.
The ruling party and opposition agreed to invite election observers before suspending their talks in Mexico City last month after a key Maduro ally was extradited to the US.
Many doubt the impartiality of the National Electoral Council, alleging that it sets up conditions detrimental to the opposition. In an effort to preserve Venezuela’s confidence in the elections, the council was redesignated until the election.
In May, the National Assembly, now with a pro-Maduro majority, appointed two well-known opponents as members of the council’s leadership, including an activist imprisoned on charges of participating in actions to destabilize the government. it was done. It is the first time since 2005 that the five-member electoral body of Venezuela’s opposition has more than one member on its board.
The leadership change was also seen as part of a series of measures adopted by the Maduros government to seek better relations with the Biden administration.
Voter Maria Valera, 78, lives in a low-income neighborhood in the capital of Caracas. There is often no electricity in her house and she gets water service only once a week. She blames Maduro’s government for the poor quality of life she and her neighbors face every day.
Valera said that she has been on the side of the opposition all her life and attends every rally to show her support. He is excited for Sunday’s election, but over the years he has lost faith in the system.
Voting does not get rid of dictatorship, Valera said. I don’t stay at home, I have to go out because if we all went out and if we all stood together in one protest, this guy would be gone.
Associated Press writers Jorge Rueda and Juan Pablo Arrez in Caracas, Venezuela contributed to this report.
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