Puebla, Mexico, January 28, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s highest court ruled Thursday the country’s largest opposition coalition won’t be able to run a joint ticket in upcoming presidential election.
The Supreme Court of Venezuela (TSJ) found the decade-old opposition coalition, the MUD, violated the norm of avoiding “double affiliation” – the act of holding membership of two parties at the same time.
“This grouping character openly contradicts the prohibition of double membership,” the TSJ said.
The court’s decision put a question mark over the future of the MUD, which has sought to unify Venezuela’s disparate opposition parties since 2008.
In its ruling, the court explained, “In the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela one cannot be a member of two political parties at the same time, because the interests of one and the other could coincide in some aspects, but there will always be distinctions, which make this unethical and inoperative.”
The ruling means the MUD won’t appear on the ballot during Venezuela’s upcoming presidential election, which is set to take place before the end of April.
Unlike in previous elections, individual opposition parties will have to run separate candidates, instead of unifying behind a single coalition leader.
Opposition leaders condemned the ruling as politically motivated, favouring incumbent President Nicolas Maduro.
“The ruling of the Constitutional Chamber [of the TSJ] against the MUD shows that these are judges hired for the government's electoral strategy,” said Omar Barboza, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
The court’s decision came amid a controversial party re-validation drive, in which parties that boycotted mayoral elections in December will be required to re-register with electoral authorities. Democratic Action, First Justice and the MUD were set to take part in the drive this coming weekend, when they will need to collect signatures from 0.5 percent of the electorate across twelve states.
While VP has refused to re-register, the larger AD and PJ parties have both urged their supporters to come out in force during the signature collection drive. It remains unclear whether the MUD coalition will still participate in the re-validation process given the top court's latest ruling.
“Tomorrow and Sunday we’ll go out with more strength and more wins,” PJ head Tomas Guanipa told El Nacional.
“The government's strategy is to get rid of opposition so that they can not compete in a free election and defeat Nicolas Maduro,” he added.
Guanipa himself is currently being investigated in connection to alleged political violence. On Thursday, Venezuela’s top prosecutor Tarek William Saab said Guanipa was suspected of fermenting domestic instability and promoting hate. Guanipa has denied wrongdoing.
It’s unclear if the investigation could lead to Guanipa joining the ranks of other opposition leaders facing bans from running for public office, such as two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and jailed VP firebrand Leopoldo Lopez. Former Miranda state governor Capriles was banned from holding public office for 15 years in 2017 due to alleged misconduct, while Lopez is currently serving an almost fourteen year sentence under house arrest after leading violent protests in 2014.