Caracas, April 12, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) –Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro placed a call Sunday for the National Electoral Council (CNE) to set a date for regional and municipal elections due this year.
“I am anxious for gubernatorial and mayoral elections to be held so that the opposition halts the guarimbas and [we can] respond to them with votes,” he declared, referring to ongoing anti-government protests that has seen opposition supporters erect burning barricades and destroy public property in cities across the country.
“We would defeat them in a matter of hours and radicalize this Bolivarian Revolution,” he continued, speaking during his weekly television program “Sundays with Maduro”.
Venezuela’s CNE has yet to announce dates for the elections, which it says will not be released until political parties complete a controversial renewal process requiring them to collect tens of thousands of signatures from members in three states of their choosing.
Regional elections were supposed to be held last year, but were postponed by the CNE, citing logistical conflicts with the recall referendum process, which was ultimately stalled in court over 53,658 fraudulent signatures collected by the opposition.
Opposition leaders, for their part, responded to the president, stressing that local and regional elections would not be enough to end the protests.
“General elections and respect for the AN [National Assembly]. Regional [elections] are important, but we can’t settle for that when we have people in the streets,” affirmed National Assembly Vice-President and Popular Will party member Freddy Guevara via Twitter.
Earlier this month, the opposition accused the government of committing a “coup d’état” in response to a controversial pair of March 29 Supreme Court rulings that temporarily authorized the judiciary to carry out certain legislative functions in light of the National Assembly’s ongoing contempt of court.
The decisions were subsequently reversed on April 1, but the opposition has continued in the streets, insisting that the Maduro government is illegitimate and demanding early presidential elections.
In January, the National Assembly passed a resolution declaring that President Maduro had “abandoned his post”, refusing to recognize the elected head of state’s authority.
The opposition-held parliament has been on a collision course with the other branches of government since taking office in January 2016, swearing in deputies under investigation for voter fraud and passing legislation ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, including a controversial amnesty law and a proposed constitutional amendment retroactively cutting short the president’s term.
The Chavista government is widely expected to suffer heavy losses at the regional elections, in particular due to an ongoing economic crisis which has taken its toll on its popularity.
Nonetheless, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela continues to be Venezuela's largest party, with an estimated 35% support amongst the general population.