Opposition leaders in Venezuela are striving to defeat President Nicolás Maduro in an upcoming election. Despite facing daunting odds, they have scheduled an Oct. 22 primary to determine their candidate. Maduro is backed by the all-powerful United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the nation’s ruling party led for 15 years by Hugo Chávez. The party has tilted the electoral system in their favor and utilized government benefits as incentives to vote for them. Currently, about 10 aspiring politicians believe they have what it takes to face Maduro and his ruling party.
The country’s current situation sees more than 7 million people forced to migrate due to an ongoing crisis. Food and other necessities remain unaffordable for those who remain in the country. Despite these conditions, Venezuelans have participated in 17 electoral contests, including presidential, legislative, gubernatorial and municipal polls since Chávez was elected president in 1998. Pro-government candidates have had preferred access to subsidized gasoline and favorable coverage on state television.
The lack of conditions conducive to fair elections has led to despair among voters and boycotts of elections. But opposition leaders have agreed to hold the first primary since 2012. They have also asked the country’s electoral authorities to update voting rolls and ease the voter registration process.
The opposition must decide whether to use government-owned electronic voting machines during the October contest, and whether polling centers will be set up at schools across the country. Disagreements among opposition parties extend to whether Venezuelans living abroad of voting age should vote in the primary.
The ruling party leader Diosdado Cabello insists that the opposition will not be able to hold a primary. If he is wrong, the opposition must figure out how to handle a primary win by a candidate whom authorities have previously banned from running for office. Superlano and Capriles are under such bans, which many consider part of the government’s anti-dissent tactics.