The president of the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, on August 2, 2017 in Caracas
The presidential elections in Venezuela, in which President Nicolás Maduro will aspire to reelection, will be held on April 22, in advance, announced the National Electoral Council (CNE).
„The presidential elections are scheduled for April 22, 2018,“ informed the president of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, in an appearance transmitted by the official television.
The expected announcement came after a negotiation between the government and the opposition Democratic Unity Table (MUD) in Santo Domingo failed to sign an agreement that included the date and guarantees for the elections.
„Despite the fact that the necessary and long-awaited agreement was not signed by the country, we can affirm that there are no roads to peace, that peace is the way, the only way to recover democratic coexistence,“ Lucena added.
The date was not a surprise. In announcing the failure of two months of talks, the Dominican President, Danilo Medina, explained that the parties had agreed on Tuesday that the elections would be on April 22, after a stretch and shrinks in which the government proposed on March 8 and the MUD on June 10.
But the MUD on Wednesday presented comments on the text – while Maduro said he would only sign the document „that was on the table on Tuesday,“ said the Dominican president.
At a rally in Caracas, Maduro lambasted the MUD for not signing, according to him by order of the United States, and before the cameras he stamped his signature on a copy of the text: „That the agreement be complied with in all its parts, I have a word, I signed, „he said.
The main negotiator of the MUD, Julio Borges, had called on the government not to commit „the absurd mistake of calling elections unilaterally.“
„Maduro is not the owner of democracy in Venezuela, they are Venezuelans and must be respected,“ said Borges, who considered that the opposition’s comments on the document sought to guarantee „free elections.“
– „Against the ropes“ –
Although it carries an unpopularity of 70% in the face of the serious crisis, with hyperinflation and acute shortages of food and medicine, Maduro has possibilities of being re-elected, according to analysts, because it has strong institutional support that includes the military, a strong policy of subsidies and a divided and fragile adversary.
The presidential ones were advanced by the ruling Constituent Assembly before April 30, dislocating an opposition that has not yet decided if it will go to the elections with a consensus candidate or with several, or even if it will participate.
„In the scenario that arises, with the current electoral power, it is clear Maduro’s triumph, unless the opposition achieves some unitary decision,“ political scientist Francine Jácome told AFP.
Jácome believes that currently the opposition lacks leadership. Its main leaders, Leopoldo López and Henrique Capriles, are politically disabled.
„If the enemy is on the ropes, he ends up giving him the knockout, the opposition must accept that the failure of the dialogue closes a cycle,“ said political scientist Leandro Area.
In his opinion, the opposition „should be reconstituted, create new leadership, but should not go to the election: broken the dialogue, if the conditions were not resolved, should not go.“
Lucena said the campaign will be held from April 2 to 19, although the government has been holding meetings since the Constituent Assembly announced the advance of the elections.
– The fine print –
According to Medina, during the dialogue process, the MUD demanded, in addition to the release of „detainees,“ the empowerment of political parties to which the judicial and electoral authorities-accused of serving Chavismo-recently excluded the elections.
„Verbalmente for the government an agreement was reached under the mediation of (the former president of the Spanish government José Luis) Rodríguez Zapatero in those two points,“ said the Dominican president.
The draft of the agreement, as the AFP could read, included the international observation of the UN, audits of the entire process and updating of the voter registry to include the thousands who emigrated in recent months.
In addition, the reopening of electoral centers in opposition zones, suspended by the CNE in the elections of governors and mayors in 2017, and the equitable access of the parties to the media.
„One thing is an invitation, which was that document, and another is our document, which is the clear articulation of these rights,“ Borges said of his counterproposal. „We will not accept any agreement that makes democracy claudish in Venezuela,“ he added.
For Area and Jácome, the failure of the dialogue would leave a more divided opposition and a „more isolated“ government.