On Sunday, millions of Venezuelans will vote in state and municipal elections Where the legitimacy of the president is not at stake Nicolas Maduro But for many, the authorities and Venezuela’s electoral system, which has been discredited by the exclusion of parties and some of the most popular opposition candidates, will be tested.
In turn, the elections could signal the emergence of new opposition leaders, the strengthening of others, and drawing the lines to be followed by Maduro’s opponents, who reach a vote decimated by the internal divisions caused by their failed attempts to oust the heirs from power. The late President Hugo Chavez, who has dominated the political scene since 1999.
Confronting positions to achieve this goal also contributed to undermining the unity of the opposition, from the use of force to the insistence on political change through electoral channels.
Here is an overview of the background, scenarios, and possible ramifications of Sunday’s election:
Who is the favourite?
The ruling party—which controls nearly all institutions, mayors, counties, and the National Assembly—is the most likely candidate to win a majority of 3,082 positions to be elected, including 23 governors, 335 mayors, and several thousand seats in state and municipal legislatures. . At its best, the opposition defeated six states and 76 mayors in 2008 and 2013, respectively.
What should happen if we consider that the elections were successful?
Success or failure depends on participation. Should the 50% turnover be exceeded, it will appear that more than expected were called due to the negative electoral climate prevailing. Historically in state and municipal elections, the abstention rate has been high, with a maximum of 70%.
Greater participation Can it be translated into a major victory for the opposition?
A greater number of votes will not be reflected in the positions obtained by the opposition, mainly because the vote for the government’s opponents is scattered among several options.
Thus, there are states and presidencies that the opposition can lose due to the dispersal of voting among the different forces. Even nominations of opponents from the ruling party itself can subtract votes from traditional opponents of the government.
This predicts an intense struggle for second place in most of the country’s constituencies.
“What we will see is a struggle for second place because second place will symbolically mean which opposition should stop more,” and this will reveal who the country’s “second force” is and what segment of the opposition it represents, said Venezuelan academic Felix Segas, director of Delphos Research Statistical. .
What is not at stake in the elections?
The legitimacy of President Maduro is not at stake. The elections have absolutely nothing to do with whether the socialist leader will remain in power or not. His presidential term ends in 2025.
Externally, can the electoral process have a positive impact?
This is what Maduro hopes in his efforts to lift the international sanctions that burden his administration. Among the concessions made by the government to promote the elections, it is worth noting that it canceled the legal procedures against many opposition leaders, which facilitated the return to the country of many former MPs who are now candidates and who at that time went into exile. After being accused of trying to overthrow him.
When did the opposition decide to resume the electoral track?
The main opposition parties – which since 2017 have boycotted the electoral processes claiming a lack of suitable conditions – confirmed their participation in August after they were virtually erased from the political scene. In previous elections, they had barely achieved a handful of popularly elected positions.
The opposition is struggling to regain popular support and its importance at a time when Maduro faces sanctions from the United States and when nearly six million Venezuelans have left the country wracked by crisis.
The decision to participate by the main opposition parties, many of which remain ineligible, came after months of behind-the-scenes dialogues they developed with top officials in Maduro’s government, initially among allies of former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. This dialogue led the National Assembly, with an overwhelmingly pro-government majority, to name the new directive for the National Electoral Council (CNE), where two of its five members are known opponents, including an activist who has been imprisoned for crimes. Participation in alleged acts of destabilizing the government.
This is the first time since 2005 that the Venezuelan opposition has two members on the CNE board of directors.
Dialogues in Mexico have revitalized electoral participation
In addition, many opposition leaders ended up returning to the electoral track in the framework of the debates now pending in Mexico.
In the new dialogues, similar to the 2019 cut-off talks, the Kingdom of Norway acts as a mediator, while Russia and the Netherlands are integrated as “accompanying countries” of official delegations and representatives of the opposition led by Juan Guaido, who has been recognized by the United States and dozens of countries as interim president of Venezuela for considering Maduro’s election in 2018 forged.
Talks in Mexico – which the ruling party suspended unilaterally in protest of the extradition of businessman Alex Saab, one of his allies, from Cape Verde to the United States – are expected to resume after the election.
The return of electoral observation to the European Union
As part of the new electoral authorities’ effort to dispel doubts about the voting process, Sunday’s elections will be monitored by independent bodies, a long-standing demand of government opponents. Many doubt the impartiality of the National Electoral Council, accused of even fixing the dates and conditions of elections so that they fit the political goals of the executive branch.
Motivated by the talks in Mexico, the European Union accepted the invitation of the Venezuelan authorities and sent observers to monitor the election campaign and the upcoming elections. The European Union, which did not recognize legislative elections last year, has not participated in the Venezuelan electoral process since 2006.
The European Commission will carry out an independent technical assessment of the entire electoral process and will make recommendations for future elections.
Also participating in the country are a panel of experts from the United Nations and six from the Atlanta-based Carter Center.