Venezuela to hold land­mark re­gional vote

The Star Malaysia - - World -

CaraCas: Venezuelans will vote in re­gional elec­tions seen as a key test for both Pres­i­dent Nicolas Maduro and the op­po­si­tion alike af­ter months of street protests that failed to un­seat him.

The op­po­si­tion, un­able to sus­tain the protests in which 125 peo­ple were killed be­tween April and July, is seek­ing a big turnout which ex­perts say could give them vic­tory in the vast ma­jor­ity of Venezuela’s 23 states in the vote to elect gover­nors.

In­ter­na­tional pow­ers ac­cuse Maduro of dis­man­tling democ­racy by tak­ing over state in­sti­tu­tions in the wake of an eco­nomic col­lapse caused by a fall in the price of oil, its sole sig­nif­i­cant source of rev­enue.

To­mor­row’s polls are the first con­tested by the op­po­si­tion since leg­isla­tive elec­tions in 2015 which gave it a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment.

Ex-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and key op­po­si­tion fig­ure Hen­rique Capriles is among those call­ing for a mas­sive turnout.

“Get out and vote, win and free the coun­try from the dic­ta­tor­ship of Maduro,” said Capriles, the out­go­ing gover­nor of Mi­randa prov­ince.

The op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Union Round­table coali­tion (MUD) finds it­self hav­ing to lift its own dis­cour­aged sup­port base. They have seen Maduro’s hand strength­ened af­ter he faced down the protests, form­ing a Con­stituent As­sem­bly packed with his own al­lies and wrest­ing leg­isla­tive power away from the op­po­si­tion- dom­i­nated na­tional as­sem­bly.

For Maduro, the polls are an op­por­tu­nity to give the lie, to some de­gree, to al­le­ga­tions of dic­ta­tor­ship at home and abroad lev­elled at him af­ter form­ing the Con­stituent As­sem­bly.

Maduro sig­nalled this week that to­mor­row’s vote would ef­fec­tively be a vote in sup­port of the as­sem­bly, forc­ing even its staunch­est crit­ics in the op­po­si­tion to recog­nise it.

He said gover­nors-elect cho­sen in to­mor­row’s vote would have to be “sworn-in and sub­or­di­nate them­selves” to the As­sem­bly, on pain of dis­missal.

Even if his al­lies suf­fer at the polls, the elec­tions could pro­vide a boost for Maduro, said David Smilde of the Wash­ing­ton Of­fice on Latin Amer­ica.

“If they hold a semi-le­git­i­mate elec­tion that leads to op­po­si­tion fig­ures tak­ing their po­si­tion in gov­er­nor­ships, it will in­evitably re­duce the res­o­nance of the term ‘dic­ta­tor­ship’ when ap­plied to Venezuela,” he said.

“The real test will come af­ter the elec­tion as the gov­ern­ment will ei­ther face a very dif­fer­ent map with at least half of the gov­er­nor­ships in the hands of the op­po­si­tion, or will have to carry out some in­el­e­gant po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vres that will likely carry sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal costs,” said Smilde. — AFP

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