Venezuela’s regional elections to test Maduro government’s hold on power

World Today

Venezuela is preparing for regional elections.

Observers say the voting is expected to test President Nicolas Maduro and his Socialist government’s hold on power.

The ruling party faces potentially heavy losses, raising questions over how the President will react.

CGTN’s Juan Carlos Lamas has more from Caracas.

Follow Juan Carlos Rivas Lamas on Twitter @JuanRivasLamas

Delayed for close to a year, Venezuela’s state elections are uniting a fragmented opposition that has struggled to make headway.

The Venezuelan government is currently represented by 20 out of 23 governors—a balance of power the opposition hopes to change.

Voters have been galvanized by the crushing economic crisis. A recent analysis of voter sentiment suggests the opposition could win more than two-thirds of votes in these regional elections, while the government is predicted to claim just under one third.

“I’m pretty sure people will go out and vote, and show with their votes that we as Venezuelans can no longer continue putting up with the government atrocities and mockery,” said Carlos Ocariz, an Opposition candidate in Miranda State. “This Sunday we will show our strength.”

Opposition leaders are already denouncing what they claim are electoral irregularities.

They point to voting cards in some states, which they say feature the face of a candidate who isn’t even running.

But the opposition is facing its own problems, including abstentions and growing apathy among its base. Members of the so-called ‘resistance’ movement say they won’t vote in a meaningless election.

“I won’t vote because to vote is to betray those who gave their lives for this country’s freedom,” Brenda Perez, a member of ‘La Resistencia’, said.

“Sunday’s elections are a government maneuver to continue trampling on our political rights, so what’s the point? I call on people not to vote.”

The government denies all allegations of election fraud, claiming some measures—such as moving polling stations five days before the vote—are meant to address security concerns.

And the authorities are calling on the opposition to stop spreading false claims.

Hector Rodriguez, a Socialist candidate, put it this way: “Today the Venezuelan opposition is desperate, because in every single street, state, slums and neighborhoods, there’s a powerful message from our people and that’s our government will rule forever.”

President Nicolas Maduro says that, no matter who wins, every individual governor has to operate under the country’s new constitutional framework: the government-controlled Constituent Assembly, a controversial body with significant power to advance the ruling party’s agenda.

Maduro has said that all newly elected governors must recognize the legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly or face immediate dismissal.

But whether the Venezuelan opposition will heed that warning remains to be seen.