Venezuela Elections On 28 July, But Will They Be Free And Fair? Who Knows!

Photo: AP. Venezuelans at the election in 2012.
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Venezuela has announced it will hold presidential elections on 28 July (the day that would have been former president Hugo Chavez’s 70th birthday) which is months earlier than expected. The early date may have been chosen to put any potential opposition candidates on the back foot.

President Nicolás Maduro, who has been in power for 11 years, is widely expected to seek re-election, possibly in a one-man election with no opposition candidates, where he wil be a strong favorite.

Leading opposition candidates have been disqualified from participating in the election during campaign or in previous elections. In June 2023, the leading candidate María Corina Machado was barred from participating by the Venezuelan government for alleged financial misconduct.

This move has been regarded by the opposition as violation of political human rights and has been condemned by international bodies like the Organization of American States, the European Union, and Human Rights Watch, as well as countries such as Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Chile, Canada, France and Mexico.

Last year, the government and the opposition in the South American nation agreed to hold elections in 2024 and invite international observers.

The 2018 elections – when Mr Maduro was declared a winner – had been widely dismissed as neither free nor fair.

The election date announcement was made by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) on Tuesday.

CNE head Elvis Amoroso said council members had unanimously chosen the 28 July from nearly 30 other possible dates.

 

“We are going to have presidential elections and I am sure that the people will once again… win a great victory,” he was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Candidates have until 25 March to register.

The early election date may leave little time for the Venezuelan opposition to choose a potential replacement for Ms Machado.

Despite the ban, she has continued to campaign and is determined to run.

In 2023, the government and opposition signed an agreement which laid some of the groundwork for the 2024 elections to be recognised by both sides.

Following the deal, the US eased its sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector. The restrictions had been imposed after what Washington said were “illegitimate” elections in 2018.

In January, the US threatened to reinstate the sanctions, after Venezuela’s top court upheld a ban on opposition candidate Ms Machado.

Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves and hppes to make them even larger if it can take over some of the offshore oilfields currently operated by Guyana by overturning a border treaty that has stood as settled law for over 100 years.

Washington also has a vested interest in supporting steps to ease  the economic crisis in Venezuela as the dire state of the country’s finances has driven more than seven million Venezuelans to emigrate, with the largest proportion heading to the US.

Many Venezuelans in the US and overseas will also be able to vote at consulates–provided that the Venezuela government does not close down the consulates.

Source:  BBC.
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