Puebla, Mexico, June 16, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government met a key demand of the opposition Thursday, setting an official timetable for regional elections.
The regional elections were widely expected to be called last year, but were repeatedly delayed by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), sparking outrage from the opposition. For months, regional elections have been among the central demands of opposition protesters, who have accused the government of delaying the vote to stave off a possible electoral defeat.
Back in May, when the CNE first set the delayed elections tentatively for December 10, the opposition condemned the timing and responded with renewed protests.
Now, in a long awaited announcement, CNE head Tibisay Lucena confirmed Thursday that regional elections will go ahead as planned on December 10. She also presented a full timeline for electoral preparations leading up to that date. Candidate registration will be open between August 8 and 12, with campaigning set to take place between November 15 and December 7.
The elections will see governorships and regional legislative positions up for grabs nationwide.
The opposition has condemned the announcement, with the main opposition coalition, the MUD, claiming the vote won’t be free and fair.
“We cannot fall into the trap of believing that here on December 10, 2017 there will be elections of governors,” MUD spokesperson Juan Carlos Caldera told Union Radio.
Accusing President Nicolas Maduro of running a “dictatorship”, Caldera claimed the government is planning on changing electoral rules ahead of the December 10 vote. He pointed to the constituent assembly slated for July. Comprised of ordinary citizens, the assembly will have broad powers to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution. When Maduro called the assembly earlier this year, he argued it could be used to overcome the country’s current political and economic crisis. The initiative has been welcomed by much of Venezuela’s left, with progressive social movements viewing the assembly as a way to deepen the country’s Bolivarian revolution.
The opposition has largely dismissed the assembly as a political ploy and refused to participate.
“They make these announcements to say that they are democratic, to say that they are complying with the constitution, if they really wanted to have the governors' elections, they would have done them before the fraudulent constituent assembly,” Caldera said.
Prominent opposition leader and Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles also condemned the electoral timetable, claiming the December vote will be a facade.
“These elections should have been … in 2016, because it is a right embodied in our constitution,” he said during a Periscope appearance.