Merseyside, United Kingdom, February 21, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced Tuesday that it had formally invited a team from the United Nations to observe upcoming presidential elections this April.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday evening, CNE President Tibisay Lucena said that authorities had already sent out an official request to the international organisation, but that the prospective UN team would not be the only delegation present.
“We will have our observation plan, made up of academics, journalists and technical support,” she said.
According to the CNE, the formal request suggests that the team be headed and organised by former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who played a key role in facilitating international dialogue between the government and opposition throughout 2016 and 2017.
The UN has yet to officially receive the invitation but will give the request “due consideration” when it is formally arrives, said the Secretary General spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.
During the press conference, Lucena explained that her office had extended the UN invitation to comply with a series of agreements negotiated between the government and the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) opposition during internationally mediated dialogue in the Dominican Republic.
On February 6, talks between the two sides collapsed after the opposition refused to sign the final draft of the agreement that had been brokered over a period of months, prompting criticism from Zapatero who urged the coalition to rethink its position.
Nonetheless, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has since said that state institutions would still comply with the electoral guarantees established in the document – including requesting UN electoral observation.
The CNE’s invitation to the UN comes after the United States and fourteen countries grouped under the so-called hemispheric “Lima Group” said earlier this month that they would not recognise the results of upcoming presidential elections, claiming that the vote would not be “free and fair”.
According to Lucena, the participation of the UN would demonstrate the legitimacy of the Venezuelan electoral system, while the CNE has since confirmed that it has also invited a team from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to observe the vote.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, Venezuela’s chief opposition coalition confirmed rumours that it intended to boycott the upcoming elections and would not stand a united front candidate as in previous elections.
In an official communiqué published on its Twitter account, the MUD stated that the upcoming elections were a “farce”.
“These are not elections. Our objective is to achieve real elections,” reads the declaration.
The opposition has publicly criticised the upcoming presidential elections as illegitimate since the CNE announced that they would be brought forward to April 22 earlier this month.
Though the coalition has been demanding early presidential elections since 2014, it says that the snap election will not allow enough time to ensure electoral guarantees and that the date was decided without its input. However, both the government and Dominican President Danilo Medina – also a leading facilitator in the talks – say that the date of April 22 was decided on through a process of negotiation between both sides.
In the document released Wednesday, the MUD also calls for the creation of a “Wide National Front” of social and political forces in the country to demand later presidential elections, a move which appears to be a reference to the “Patriotic Junta” created in 1957 which would eventually bring down Venezuelan dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez.
In addition, the coalition states that it will announce “basic proposals” over the next few days for the creation of a “unity government and national reconstruction” but does not give details.
Despite the MUD’s decision to withdraw from the race, Venezuelan presidential incumbent for the United Socialist Party Nicolas Maduro will not run unopposed in April’s elections.
Earlier this week, two prominent evangelical pastors confirmed that they will stand as presidential candidates, though neither are backed by an official party. The leader of the opposition party Progressive Alliance and former Lara state governor, Henri Falcon, has also publicly expressed his intention to run, but his candidacy has yet to be officially confirmed.