Apr 4, 2024 - World

Venezuelan government creates voter confusion ahead of summer election

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has his arm up and his hand out while speaking behind a microphone

President Nicolás Maduro speaks at the offices of Venezuela's electoral commission on March 25. Photo: Pedro Rances Mattey/Anadolu via Getty Images

The Venezuelan government's attempts to block some opposition candidates from the presidential election have left voters confused, experts tell Axios Latino.

Why it matters: President Nicolás Maduro is running for re-election after nearly a decade in power. But after years of a catastrophic economic crisis, severe food and medicine shortages and political repression, Venezuelans want to see change in July's election, polls show.

State of play: Last week was the deadline for candidates to file. But the Venezuelan electoral commission (CNE), which is controlled by Maduro allies, didn't allow María Corina Machado, who decisively won the opposition coalition's primaries last fall, to do so.

  • That was expected because she has long been barred from running over what she says are political reasons.
  • Machado's designated replacement, Corina Yoris, said that although she was herself not formally banned, she was purposefully shut out of the online filing platform.
  • After an uproar from the opposition and international criticism that the commission's actions were undemocratic, it allowed Edmundo González Urrutia, another proxy chosen by Machado, to register as a candidate.

The CNE also allowed Manuel Rosales, a member of one the parties in the opposition coalition, to file. Rosales is running separately from the coalition.

  • Rosales' candidacy has "created divisions within the opposition coalition but has also aroused suspicion from voters" as to whether he is still in the opposition or if he's been allowed to run to syphon votes from the official candidate for the opposition, says Phil Gunson, a senior analyst for Andean nations at International Crisis Group.
  • Gunson says the confusion might result in voters skipping election day and ultimately lead to a Maduro victory. Venezuelan candidates don't need a majority to win office.

What they're saying: "All these moves have generated a lot of tension, and every day feels like we're in a video game in which the difficulty levels increase randomly," says Luz Mely Reyes, analyst and director of Venezuelan independent media site Efecto Cocuyo.

  • "And if just the candidate registrations have been this opaque and messy, it's hard to think election day itself won't be the same," she adds.
  • Reyes says a major focus for the opposition coalition, international observers and Venezuelans should be pushing to ensure that the will of the voters is truly respected.

What to watch: The Maduro regime could still bar González Urrutia, Machado's replacement, from running if he appears to be popular among voters and poses a threat to Maduro winning, says Gunson.

  • For now, Machado is calling for protests "in defense of democracy and human rights" this Saturday, both at home and among the diaspora in different countries.

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