So far, the opponents of authoritarian President Maduro have controlled the National Assembly. Now parliament is being re-elected – and the opposition is calling for a boycott of the vote. Virtually nothing stands in the way of triumph for the ruling socialists.
Caracas (AP) – In the midst of a serious political and economic crisis, Venezuelans elected a new parliament on Sunday.
“The day has come to vote for the fatherland, peace and the future,” said President Nicolás Maduro at the start of the elections. Large sections of the opposition boycotted the vote because they expected fraud. The Organization of American States (OAS) had already stated in advance that the conditions for free and fair elections were not in place.
Observers therefore assumed that the ruling socialist party PSUV would win. This would mean that the opposition in the 29-million-population country on the north coast of South America would lose the last major state institution it controlled. Without a majority in the National Assembly, the legitimacy of self-appointed interim president Juan Guaidó is likely to be questioned.
“The election is a fraud of the dictatorship led by Nicolás Maduro and will only exacerbate the crisis in the country,” Julio Borges, foreign minister of Guaidó’s counter-government, wrote in an open letter to the international community on Sunday. “What Venezuela needs is free presidential and parliamentary elections.”
Guaidó urged his supporters to stay at home and boycott the elections. “The dictatorship does not want to hold elections, but to destroy the country’s hopes,” he said. However, some opposition members called for elections. “Whether Maduro should leave or whether he can continue his strategy and take the country depends on us,” former presidential candidate Henri Falcón wrote on Twitter. “Let’s all get up and choose.”
In all, nearly 21 million Venezuelans have been called to elect the new National Assembly for a five-year term. The parliament consists of 277 members. The first results are expected on Monday morning (CET).
Venezuela is in a deep crisis. Guaidó proclaimed himself interim president in early 2019 and was recognized by numerous countries – including Germany and the US – as a legitimate head of state. However, he has not yet managed to defend himself against Maduro. The authoritarian ruling head of state is supported by the powerful army in the power struggle. The United Nations accuses the security forces of serious human rights violations.