They set the date for the presidential elections in Venezuela

They set the date for the presidential elections in Venezuela in 2024

Caracas – Venezuela's electoral authorities announced Tuesday that presidential elections will be held on July 28, 2024, with President Nicolás Maduro expected to seek re-election and maintain the disqualification of the main opposition candidate.

The president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Elvis Amoroso, indicated that the schedule was approved “unanimously”, with the day of the polls coinciding with the birthday of the late former President Hugo Chávez.

The announcement came four days after Venezuela's National Assembly, with a pro-government majority, submitted a document to the electoral body on the conditions of the next presidential election.

The mandate of President Maduro, who could run for re-election, ends in early 2025.

The document was not signed by the main opposition coalition, the so-called Democratic Unity Platform, which is backed by Washington and whose candidate, María Corina Machado, remains barred from holding public office by the Venezuelan authorities.

Machado won the opposition primaries last October with a large majority of more than 90% of the vote. When asked about the CNE announcement, her press team declined to comment and reported that she was on tour in the Venezuelan Andes.

María Corina Machado, aspiring opposition presidential candidate, waves to her supporters during a rally in Valencia, Carabobo state, Venezuela, October 5, 2023. The opposition will hold its primary elections on October 22nd. (Ariana Cubillos / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The electoral authority did not provide any information about what will happen to his candidacy or that of other opposition names that have also been disqualified. Amoroso, who was previously chief of Venezuela's auditor general, imposed a 15-year political disqualification on Machado in late June 2023.

According to the Comptroller's Office, the former lawmaker was involved in a corruption plot orchestrated by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who appointed himself interim president in 2019 as head of the National Assembly. The Auditor's Office provided no evidence.

But Machado was not a member of the National Assembly led by Guaidó and was one of his harshest critics.

His disqualification was confirmed by the Supreme Court at the end of January, although Machado stated that he did not recognize this decision and continued to travel around the country.

Hours later, at a televised government event, Maduro expressed his satisfaction with the announcement of the electoral schedule, exclaiming: “We are going to presidential elections and I am sure that the people will fight their fight again and achieve a great victory once again.”

The ruler has repeatedly stated that the ruling party is ready for the election campaign.

Presentation of candidacies

Candidates can be submitted between March 21 and 25, as announced by the President of the CNE. The campaign runs from July 4th to 25th.

In order to take part in the election, new voters must register between March 18th and April 16th.

Some fear that the proximity of the election date and the deadlines set, including the limited scope for registering candidates, will make the elections less competitive.

“The date is not a surprise,” Benigno Alarcón, a political scientist and professor at Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas, told AP. “It was known that, faced with a process that is traumatic for (the ruling party), they would try to get out of this birth, which is a high-risk birth, as quickly as possible,” he said. In his opinion, there is not enough time for the election campaign.

Presidential elections in Venezuela have, with some exceptions, been scheduled six months in advance on other occasions.

“One thing is very clear: this election is designed so that the government minimizes the risk of defeat. “The election is designed so that Maduro is the only one who is competitive,” said Alarcón, who believes the government’s main concern is to stop Machado from running.

“The government assumes that everything will return to normal after the storm and that foreign governments, including democratic ones, will have to accept that Maduro will become president again and that they will have to come to an agreement with him or yes,” said the political scientist.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro during a meeting at the Miraflores Palace on February 20, 2024 in Caracas. (Ariana Cubillos / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The assembly had proposed up to 27 different dates between mid-April and early December for the call for presidential elections. The pro-government lawmakers assured that the drafting of the document involved 43 parties, representing 97% of the organizations legally registered in the CNE.

Some of these parties are now led by opposition dissidents after the highest court gave them the address, symbols, colors and maps of the three main opposition parties: First Justice, Democratic Action and Popular Will.

Jorge Rodríguez, president of the National Assembly and a close Maduro aide, has repeatedly said that the proposal is not intended to replace the CNE, which is responsible for organizing elections at the national, state and local levels, in decision-making.

By choosing a later date, July 1, the CNE allows the Maduro government to respect part of the agreement signed in October on the Caribbean island of Barbados with the Unity Platform, which envisaged the holding of presidential elections in the second half of 2024 proposed working on a plan that would create the political conditions for holding free and competitive elections.

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The electoral guarantees included in the proposed law include “equality in participation in the media and social networks” regardless of the size of the parties.

Critics of the government complain that the Maduro government has not yet taken any concrete measures to ensure transparent and fair presidential elections.

For years, international observer missions have denounced irregularities that undermine the level playing field in Venezuela's electoral processes, such as the disqualification of opposition candidates, the use of state resources in election campaigns and unequal access to the media.

In Venezuela, political disqualification is a secondary penalty that is imposed when there is a final court decision. Critics of Chávez and Maduro, including Machado, denounce that disqualification has been used as a political weapon for years.

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