Millions of Venezuelans will vote on Sunday in state and municipal elections in which the legitimacy of the president is not at stake Nicolas Maduro But for many it will be put to the test both the authorities and the electoral system of Venezuela, discredited by the disqualification of parties and some of the most popular opposition candidates.
In turn, the elections could mark the emergence of new opposition leaderships, consolidate others and draw the lines to be followed by Maduro’s adversaries, who arrive at the vote decimated by the internal fractures derived from their failed attempts to evict the heirs from power. of the late President Hugo Chávez, who have dominated the political scene since 1999.
The confrontation of positions to achieve that end also contributed to undermine the opposition unit, from using force to insisting on political change through electoral channels.
Here is an overview of the background, scenarios and possible repercussions of Sunday’s elections:
Who are the favorites?
The ruling party – which controls almost all the institutions, mayors, governorships and the National Assembly – is the favorite to win the majority of the 3,082 positions to be elected, among them 23 governors, 335 mayors and several thousand seats in state and municipal legislatures. At its best, the opposition conquered six governorships and 76 mayors in 2008 and 2013, respectively.
What should happen to consider that the elections were successful?
Success or failure will depend on participation. In the case of exceeding 50%, it would show that it was possible to summon more people than expected given the negative electoral climate that exists. Historically in state and municipal elections, abstention has been high, with a ceiling that has been around 70%.
Greater participation, can it translate into a significant victory in favor of the opposition?
A greater number of votes will hardly be reflected in the positions obtained by the opposition, essentially because the vote in favor of the government’s opponents is dispersed among several options.
Consequently, there are governorships and mayoralties that the opposition could lose due to the dispersion of the vote between different forces. Even the candidacies of dissidents from the ruling party itself could subtract votes from the traditional opponents of the government.
This predicts a close fight for second place in most of the country’s electoral constituencies.
“What we are going to see is a fight for second place because second place will symbolically mean which opposition should be stopped the most,” that will reveal who is “the second force” in the country and what segment of the opposition represents it, ”said Venezuelan academic Félix Seijas, director of the statistical research firm Delphos.
What is not at stake in the elections?
The legitimacy of President Maduro is not at stake. The election has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the socialist leader remains in power. His presidential term ends in 2025.
Externally, could the electoral process have a positive impact?
That is what Maduro hopes as part of his efforts to lift the international sanctions that weigh on his administration. Among the concessions made by the government to promote the elections, it is worth noting legal proceedings against numerous opposition leaders, which facilitated the return to the country of several former deputies who are now candidates and who at the time went into exile after being accused of trying to overthrow him.
When did the opposition decide to resume the electoral path?
The main opposition parties – which since 2017 had boycotted the electoral processes claiming that there were no suitable conditions – confirmed their participation in August after being virtually erased from the political scene. In previous elections they barely achieved a handful of popularly elected positions.
The opposition struggles to regain popular support and its importance at a time when Maduro faces sanctions from the United States and when nearly six million Venezuelans have left the country ravaged by the crisis.
The decision to participate by the main opposition parties, many of them still disqualified, also came after months of behind-the-scenes dialogues that they developed with senior officials of the Maduro government, initially among the allies of former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. This dialogue led to the appointment by the National Assembly, with an overwhelming majority of the ruling party, of the new directive of the National Electoral Council (CNE), where two of its five members are recognized opponents, including an activist who was imprisoned accused of participating in alleged actions. to destabilize the government.
It is the first time since 2005 that the Venezuelan opposition has two members on the CNE board.
Dialogues in Mexico reinvigorated electoral participation
Additionally, the return of many opposition leaders to the electoral path ended up being raided in the framework of the now suspended dialogues in Mexico.
In the new dialogues, similar to the truncated conversations of 2019, the kingdom of Norway acts as a facilitator, while Russia and the Netherlands were incorporated as “accompanying countries” of the official delegations and representatives of the opposition led by Juan Guaidó, whom the United States and several dozen countries recognized as interim president of Venezuela for considering that Maduro was elected in 2018 in a fraudulent election.
The talks in Mexico – unilaterally suspended by the ruling party in protest at the extradition of businessman Alex Saab, one of its allies, from Cape Verde to the United States – are expected to resume after the elections.
Return of the electoral observation of the European Union
As part of the efforts of the new electoral authorities to clear up doubts about the voting process, Sunday’s elections will be monitored by independent bodies, a long-standing demand from the government’s opponents. Many doubt the impartiality of the CNE, accused even of setting the dates of the elections and their conditions so that they adjust to the political objectives of the Executive.
The European Union, motivated by the talks in Mexico, accepted the invitation of the Venezuelan authorities and sent observers to monitor the electoral campaign and the upcoming elections. The EU, which last year did not recognize the legislative elections, had not participated in a Venezuelan electoral process since 2006.
The European mission will carry out an independent technical evaluation of the entire electoral process and will give recommendations for future elections.
A panel of experts from the United Nations and six from the Carter Center, based in Atlanta, also participate in the country.