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The Venezuelan Opposition Is At A New Electoral Crossroads

The opposition has decided to join the process, with the accompaniment of international observers, despite the questions, criticisms and abuses of Chavismo .

Voting center in Venezuela

After the partial renewal of the national electoral council, the release of several political prisoners and the authorization of several persecuted candidates, the Democratic Unity Table (MUD) has returned to the electoral field to confront Chavismo on November 21. Photo: France Press

LatinAmerican Post | Anderson Ayala

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Leer en español: La oposición venezolana está en una nueva encrucijada electoral

After the partial renewal of the national electoral council, the release of several political prisoners and the empowerment of several persecuted candidates, the Table of Democratic Unity (MUD) has returned to the electoral field to confront Chavismo on November 21. They had not done so since 2017, also in gubernatorial elections, where they lost most of the states and described the results as "fraud."

This decision was taken in the heat of the dialogue processes held between the government and the opposition, facilitated by the Kingdom of Norway this year in Mexico. Although this was interrupted in the months of October and November, by decision of the Chavista delegation, the electoral guarantees promised to the opposition were a forceful incentive, with the legitimacy given by governments such as the United States and the countries of the European Union (which will accompany the elections after 15 years of absence).

In this context, the opposition found itself at the crossroads of participating or not, with the support of internal forces and democratic countries, but also with the rejection of national leaders and international actors such as the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro.

That return to the ring was justified under the banners of “organizing” the citizenry, especially in the face of future electoral processes, and of “not giving spaces” to the Chavez candidates. With this, it has been shown that elections can be an opportunity to show strength, to renew leadership and to obtain some spaces of local or regional power. This has been promoted by former presidential candidates such as Henrique Capriles and Manuel Rosales.

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This narrative was successful in the political opposition forces, because according to the National Electoral Council (CNE), the number of candidates exceeds 70 thousand writings. However, the division of the opposition and the multiple separate candidacies can diminish the claims to win elections.

However, despite the enormous number of candidates, the voting intentions do not indicate massive participation of the citizens, as the rector of the CNE, Roberto Picón, has also recognized in dialogue with France 24 . Picón estimates a vote of between 30 and 40% of the electoral registry, based on participation in past elections.

But not everyone has endorsed the process. Rejections have also emerged from national leaders such as Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, who have questioned the legitimacy and nature of the process, as well as the lack of transparency of the participating actors. The main reason mentioned is that the process only gives legitimacy to the government of Nicolás Maduro and, especially, to his claim to show a democratic image, with political normality, without disqualifications and without persecution.

This does not mean that these sectors do not want to put an end to the crisis, or that they do not believe in a negotiated solution to Chavismo. But it is a fact that this same opposition has discouraged voting as a fighting mechanism in recent years, under justifications identical to those, especially in elections where it has not participated.

This has its recent origin in the elections to the questioned National Constituent Assembly of 2017, where the company Smartmatic itself, in charge of the electoral software in the voting machines, announced a lack of correspondence between the results released and those announced. After that, the opposition called for abstention in the municipal elections of that year, in the presidential elections of 2018 and in the parliamentary elections of 2020, where it lost the remaining stronghold.

What is striking is that in all those elections they did not propose an alternative way of struggle, beyond sterile mobilizations. The aforementioned lack of legitimacy of the process did not prevent Chavismo from appropriating those spaces, with the full support of the State security forces. Had they not participated in these elections, it is likely that this would have happened again.

Additionally, the participation of the opposition (or an important part of it) would give the Venezuelan president the argument of fair elections that would allow him to negotiate the lifting of international economic sanctions. Maduro would seek, especially, the liberation of oil companies that allows him to release the economic pressure he suffers.

Now the challenge for the opposition is to re-legitimize the right to vote, organize its electoral machinery and convince citizens of the link that their participation will have, despite the fact that the conditions that were denounced in previous processes have not changed.

In addition, this process is supported by a large part of the international community, with the sending of international companions and observers, as is the case of the missions sent by the European Union and the Carter Center of the United States. The justification for this was to see the elections as a way to "find a way out" of the Venezuelan crisis.