politics

Venezuelan Opposition Renews Push to Delay Presidential Vote, Sources Say

Updated on
  • Government and opposition have renewed negotiations in private
  • Opposition still pushing for new electoral board, later date

Henrique Capriles speaks to members of the media on July 16, 2017.

Photographer: Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg

Venezuela’s opposition has renewed private talks with the government in a bid to push back the date of the country’s presidential elections as President Nicolas Maduro’s administration seeks some legitimacy for the vote, according to people familiar with the matter.

Two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, former Governor Henri Falcon and lawmakers from two of Venezuela’s largest opposition parties participated in the talks that began Friday and are ongoing at the Gran Melia Hotel in Caracas, after the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, announced it would shun snap elections to protest what they say is an electoral system rigged to favor the ruling socialist party. Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez and head of National Constituent Assembly Delcy Rodriguez are said to have been among representatives from the government, two of the people said.

The latest discussions center on setting a date later than April 22 for presidential elections, changing the leadership of the country’s electoral authority and allowing the presence of international observers, according to three sources with knowledge of the discussions, who aren’t authorized to speak publicly about the private meetings. Earlier talks in the Dominican Republic failed to culminate in an accord which prompted the pro-government electoral council to set the general election date much earlier than the opposition had wanted.

Larger Point

The opposition Popular Will party, which backs a boycott of the election, rejected a new vote date as not enough to “guarantee free and transparent elections.”

“Changing the date by one month would not change the lack of necessary electoral guarantees,” Popular Will said in a statement sent via text message.

Information Minister Rodriguez, responding to questions from Bloomberg, said via WhatsApp that the government is “always ready to talk with the opposition” and “we are in permanent dialogue with them.” A request for comment from the constituent assembly wasn’t immediately returned. Representatives of opposition parties for Capriles and Falcon either declined to comment or didn’t reply to messages.

Despite international outcry that the vote would lack legitimacy, Maduro recently raised the stakes and proposed holding a “mega-election,’’ whereby elections for the opposition-led National Assembly as well as municipal and state legislative councils would also coincide on the April 22 vote. Maduro has said that with or without an opposition candidate, there will be elections that day.

The accord now being discussed would call for holding general elections, municipal and state legislative councils simultaneously and give the opposition additional time to select a presidential candidate and campaign. Additionally, opposition leaders are demanding that a delegation from the United Nations be allowed to monitor the vote and the leadership of the National Electoral Council be changed after widespread accusations of fraud last year. Parliamentary elections would be held at a later date.

— With assistance by Noris Soto

(Updates to add information minister comment in sixth paragraph.)
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