While many countries around the world are benefiting from elections that have finally become fair, the same might not occur in Venezuela. There is great concern that the upcoming election could result in a whole host of problems and prompt excessive tension.
It’s no secret that Venezuela has been suffering from economic problems over the years, with its economy poised to shrink by a mammoth 10% this year alone. It means that citizens are without even basic goods and as such, the current government is unlikely to be re-elected.
Even though they rose to power in a completely legitimate way, there are major concerns in the way in which they view opponents. In short, they just dismiss them, and this has led many to believe that the chances of a fair election are slim to say the least.
President Nicolás Maduro has remained defiant through the whole process and has made no suggestion that he would be open to negotiation with rival parties. Even more worrying is the events in central Venezuela, with an opposition candidate being shot by gunman at a rally.
While the current leaders, the so-called “Chavismo”, were once popular, their leadership has come under immense pressure. The polls have suggested that they are significantly behind other parties and as such, if they do manage to retain power, it’s going to prompt serious questions about the legitimacy of this election.
One of the main reasons why there is a lot of skepticism about this election is because of the lack of international observers. Up until 2014, the Carter Center and Organization of American States were able to rubber-stamp any elections as fair. Now, with the Cater Center office closed in Venezuela and the Organization of American States having their approached rebuffed by the current government, there is no referee with authority to handle proceedings.
Instead, it will be officiated by South America’s Unasur bloc. Considering the fact that this is a longtime ally of Hugo Chávez who was part of the Chavismo, many opposition parties are not convinced that fairness is going to be on the agenda this time around. Additionally, and perhaps significantly, no Uruguay or Chile representatives will form part of the Unasur group which could hinder opposition hopes as well.
Maduro unsurprisingly has told the press that the polls are wrong and he fully expects to retain power. Considering the landslide poll results against him thus far, it means that most people think that foul play is very likely to occur.
The knock-on effect of this could be disastrous. It was only in 2014 that violence erupted on the streets after Maduro narrowly won the presidency. There were dozens of deaths and the only reason the protests calmed was because of the opposition’s calls for supporters to instead put their energy into this upcoming election.
Unsurprisingly, these events have not gone unnoticed outside of Venezuela. The head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, wrote a letter asking officials to regulate a fair election. In response, he was told that his letter was a threat to the people of the country, whilst also being labelled as “garbage” in the process.
While Maduro may retain public confidence, behind closed doors he might not be quite as convinced that his party is going to prevail. He has already warned some of his old devotees that votes for the opposition would effectively be betrayal, but this is something that is unlikely to make much of a difference to a lot of these people.
Experts have said that a lot of people who used to believe in Maduro and his predecessor Chávez are no longer convinced. The fact that some of his relatives, and other key figures who are close to him, are the subject of U.S. drug trafficking and corruption investigations also doesn’t do his plight many favors.