Caracas (AP) – He brought thousands into the streets and incited soldiers to mutiny, campaigned for support for his counter-government around the world, and gained access to foreign accounts. It was no use.
Nearly two years after Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself Venezuela’s head of state, his rival Nicolás Maduro is still sitting in the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas.
On Sunday, Guaidó is also likely to lose control of the National Assembly, where the opposition has held a majority since 2015. 277 members are elected in the parliamentary elections. Most opposition parties expect electoral fraud and have therefore called for a boycott. Observers therefore expect a victory for Maduro’s socialist ruling party, the PSUV, and for splinter parties close to the government. This would mean that the opposition would lose the last institution it had under control.
“On December 6, the dictatorship wants to commit electoral fraud,” Guaidó said in an audio message this week. “The minimum conditions for elections have not even been met. Our party leaders are banned from voting, in custody or in exile. The best we can do is boycott the elections. “The opposition is planning a referendum a week after the election and calling for protests against Maduro on December 12.
The international community also has little hope for free and fair elections. The EU refuses to send observers because it was informed of the polls only at a very short notice. The Organization of American States (OAS) said that free and fair elections are currently not possible in Venezuela.
Venezuela is in a deep political crisis. Guaidó declared himself interim president in early 2019 and was recognized by numerous countries – including the US and Germany – as a legitimate head of state. However, he never succeeded in asserting himself in Venezuela. Maduro is mainly supported in the power struggle by the powerful army. The United Nations accuses the security forces of serious human rights violations.
While Guaidó had initially managed to unite the South American country’s notoriously divided opposition behind him, the rifts between moderate opponents of the government and hardliners re-emerged with persistent failure. “As Guaidó’s strategy seems increasingly unimaginable, unpredictable and desperate, it was only a matter of time before support for him waned,” said Alejandro Velasco of New York University, the specialist portal Latin America Advisor.
The once rich country is also deepening into a humanitarian crisis. Due to lack of foreign currency and numerous sanctions, it can barely import food, medicines and daily necessities. Even gasoline is now in short supply in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world. According to a study by the Catholic University of Andrés Bello, 96 percent of households live in poverty. Millions of Venezuelans have left their homes.
Small and new alliances of the opposition and parties hijacked by government officials will participate in the parliamentary elections. “We will see an election in which the government participates practically alone and an opposition that does not fundamentally question the position of the government,” said José Virtuoso, rector of Andrés Bello University, in an interview with the human rights organization Provea.
Others hope that a more moderate opposition in the National Assembly can resume the stalled dialogue with the government. “If the government is willing to appear less authoritarian and to discuss laws in parliament, it could have a satisfying effect,” said political scientist Ricardo Sucre of the German news agency.
For Guaidó, on the other hand, Sunday’s elections may mark the end of his political adventure, which began as a feat and was in danger of dying of exhaustion. “Guaidó’s legal legitimacy is based on his presidency of the National Assembly. The moral legitimacy of the opposition is based on its democratic values, ”says Professor Velasco. “Should Guaidó consider remaining as interim president, he would jeopardize legal and moral legitimacy.”