Venezuela - 2018 - Election
President Nicolas Maduro won the Venezuelan presidential elections 20 May 2018, gaining a second presidential term for six years with 67.7 percent of the vote. With 92.6 percent of the votes counted, Maduro had 5.8 million votes while his closest rival and former Governor Henri Falcon won 1.8 million. The vote was marked by low turnout of 46.1 percent. In total, 8.6 million Venezuelans voted, out of an electoral registry of 20.5 million people.
The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), the united opposition parties' alliance, had sent out a clear message asking voters to abstain from going to the ballot box. The decision to not participate in the vote was made in protest, as a rejection of the electoral system, which they said was rigged in Maduro's favor. MUD announced its own estimation of the turnout, affirming that less than 30 percent of the country's 20.5 million eligible adults cast their ballots. The Associated Press reported that voting centers across Caracas appeared largely empty during the election.
The election was boycotted by the opposition as the “coronation” of a dictator and condemned by much of the international community. The opposition candidate, former governor, Henri Falcón came second after Maduro - and the evangelical expiator Javier Bertucci made accusations of irregularities. Hope for Change Movement presidential candidate, Javier Bertucci, who came in third, said that he, also, will not recognize the process.
Venezuela held its presidential elections on May 20, but the country also voted to choose the members of state and municipal legislative councils. Just over 20 million citizens can vote in the presidential election, and a total of 19 million can choose their representatives in the state legislative councils. Four candidates are running for president. But the two main players are Nicolas Maduro and opposition candidate Henri Falcon.
Venezuela’s presidential election, which was set to be held on April 22, was pushed back to the second half of May by the country’s electoral body. The National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the postponement in a statement 29 March 2018 but did not give a precise date for the election, in which President Nicolas Maduro will seek a second six-year term. Elections for Venezuela’s regional governments will take place at the same time, the CNE said. “It is proposed that the elections for president be held simultaneously” with elections for regional legislations “in the second half of May 2018.” It said the proposal to postpone the presidential poll had been agreed by the government and the opposition candidate Henri Falcon.
Most of the candidates who might have run against Maduro have been barred from running, including Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo Lopez. Capriles was banned from holding office for 15 years due to "administrative irregularities", and Lopez is facing house arrest.
President Nicolas Maduro said he is ready to seek re-election after his allies pushed forward voting in a move widely seen as a bid to capitalize on disarray in the Venezuelan opposition and consolidate power amid a freefalling economy. Maduro's comment came soon after the pro-government constitutional assembly ordered the presidential election be held by the end of April — months ahead of when the country's presidential voting has traditionally taken place.
On 30 November 2017, Venezuelan Vice President Tariq al-Issami said that President Nicolas Maduro would seek a second term in the 2018 election. According to El País newspaper, Venezuela's presidential election was scheduled for December 2018, but the elections were expected to take place earlier in the year.
Nicolas Maduro, 55, has been Venezuela's president since former President Hugo Chavez died in 2013. Under Chavez, the country turned towards socialism. Maduro continued many of the Chavez policies and during his campaign has promised to create a "new economy" in the country. Maduro stated he had followed Chavez's legacy, adding: "I will dedicate my life to fixing the economy of this country. My spirit is renewed, my energy recharged."
Henri Falcon was Maduro's primary opponent and was once a Chavez supporter. A lawyer and former governor of Lara State, he broke with the ruling party in 2010, and in 2013 was the campaign chief for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. In 2018, he decided to break with the opposition and run as an independent candidate. In an op-ed written for the New York Times, Falcon said he decided on the break because "electoral boycotts almost never work. In country after country, opposition forces that abandoned the field of electoral competition have lost ground and allowed rulers to consolidate power."
Javier Bertucci is an evangelical pastor who announced his candidacy on February 18, 2018. He called himself an "independent candidate with no political history." Bertucci has said he would eliminate exchange controls and attempt to increase foreign investment. He also said he would not eliminate the social programs initiated by Chavez' "Bolivarian Revolution".
Reinaldo Quijada is an electrical engineer who follows the Chavista movement; he announced his candidacy on April 22. The engineer defends Bolivarian Revolution but does not support Maduro's government. If he wins, Quijada claimed he would continue the "revolutionary process" started by Chavez in Venezuela.
At the end of 2017, Nicolas Maduro emerged as the clear victor, not only in the power struggle in his own country but also compared to most other heads of state in Latin America. His popularity ratings were higher than those of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos, in neighboring Colombia. The Venezuelan parliament had been disempowered, the separation of powers abolished in favor of a hand-picked, all-powerful "Constituent Assembly," and the opposition was divided. Maduro had moved well beyond mere populism; he no longer needed to worry about re-election in 2018.
In December 2017, pro-opposition think tank Atlantic Council received US$1million from the U.S. State Department to work with Venezuela's "fractured opposition." According to the Miami Herald, the funds would help finance a year-long project to "draw more international attention to the crisis, show the public what Venezuela could look like under new leadership, and provide the opposition and other stakeholders the tools needed to work more cohesively together."
According to Alternet journalist Max Blumenthal, the Atlantic Council is "a pro-regime-change think tank that is funded by Western governments and their allies." It's also financed in part by "Viktor Pinchuk, Ukrainian nationalist and longtime friend/donor of the Clintons." According to Venezuelanalysis.com, this same council has pushed for "arming Salafist militant groups against the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria and lobbied for more militaristic policies toward Russia. In Venezuela, the organization is intimately linked to the pro-United States opposition."
Venezuela's 2018 presidential election came on the heels of a Bolivarian Revolution tour-de-force. Internal dissent, a deadly beat which saw the likes of Orlando Jose Figuera burned alive on a public street for simply “being Chavista,” was quelled by the government and its supporters. Peace negotiations with the opposition were moving forward and have been supported by several governments.
Loyalists to the legacy left by Hugo Chavez dominated the National Constituent Assembly, ANC, elections in July. The same occured in the gubernatorial elections in October and, more recently, municipal elections this month. Needless to say, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV, dominated at the ballot box in all cases. Neither external threats of intervention headed by U.S. President Donald Trump nor sanctions have bullied the populace to surrender "the helms of self-determination and popular democracy".
Although official candidates of the people have yet to be announced, a potential runner is ANC President, Delcy Rodriguez. Some observe that her candidacy will be strengthened if the economy improves during her leadership of the government body.
Whereas mainstream media portrayed the ANC election as a tool to convert Venezuela into a "dictatorship," Don Kovalik, a U.S. human rights and labor lawyer, invited by the National Electoral Council to assist the ANC voting process, said the institution “opens the possibility for greater democracy.” He added that the 545 elected delegates “represent various sectors of the population,” including, but not limited to, Indigenous people, students, women, disabled people, workers and Afro-Venezuelans.
And while the U.S. State Department deemed the ANC an “illegitimate product of a flawed process,” few were impressed, lesser distracted, by its peddling of a worn out “democracy” card having seated a president who garnered second place in the popular vote and installed by an elitist electoral college.
Venezuela's main opposition alliance, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), announced that it would boycott the election, although one of its high profile members, Henri Falcon, indicated his intention to run. Another potential presidential candidate was Venezuela's chief prosecutor, Tareck El Aissami, and, of course, having only served one term, current President Nicolas Maduro, the former bus driver who previously served as foreign minister.
On 23 February 2018 the National Electoral Council (CNE) of Venezuela ruled out the possibility of carrying out legislative, state and municipal elections, in conjunction with the scheduled presidential elections on April 22, as President Maduro had proposed. Tibisay Lucena, the president of the CNE, signaled that the parliamentary elections, which are slated for 2020, could take place sooner. "The CNE will evaluate the upcoming date of the parliamentary, legislative council and municipal elections," she said.
On February 23, the Organization of American States (OAS) approved a resolution that called on the Venezuelan government to cancel the presidential elections. The Organization of American States (OAS) urged Venezuela to cancel the April 22 presidential election, citing a lack of transparency in the polls. In a resolution, a majority of OAS members pressed the Venezuelan government to carry out elections through a "fair, transparent, legitimate and credible" process, in which all political parties and candidates could participate.
Turkey, Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia voiced their support for this process. The Lima Group - which brings together 12 nations mostly from Latin America - expressed its "strongest rejection" and stated that this process "will lack all legitimacy and credibility." The European Parliament also said in February that it would not recognise the election unless several conditions are met, such as the release of political prisoners.
On an episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver – a British comedian – attempted to shed light on the ongoing crisis by weaving some random anecdotes into a 20-minute segment. He outrightly dismissed crucial facts about Venezuela and its socialist history, coming perilously close to publicly endorsing the U.S. sanctions intended to prolong the crisis.
Critics, however, took note. Gabriel Hetland is a professor at the University of Albany who writes extensively about Venezuela. Writing in The Nation, she said: "The U.S. government has not only cheered and funded these anti-democratic actions. By absurdly declaring that Venezuela is an 'unusual and extraordinary threat' to U.S. national security, and pressuring investors and bankers to steer clear of the Maduro administration, the White House has prevented Venezuela from obtaining much-needed foreign financing and investment."
Outspoken US actor Danny Glover called for the international community to respect Venezuela's elections, scheduled to take place on May 20. "Venezuela is a vibrant and contentious participatory democracy where citizens have the last say at the ballot box," Glover said in a video circulated on social media. "Venezuelans have the sovereign right to vote, and their will must be respected. I respect the right for all to agree or disagree with Venezuelan government policy, but I ask you to join the millions in Venezuela and around the world and to stand with integrity and recognize and respect the will of Venezuelan citizens at the ballot box, and call on all outsiders to not interfere in their peaceful, self-determined pursuit of mutual benefit and resolution of differences." Campaigning for the May 20th election came to an end 28 May 2018. President Nicolas Maduro held his final presidential campaign rallies in the capital Caracas.
A day after the Venezuelan general elections, China and Russia called for respecting the country's democratic process and rejected attempts of interfence by the United States and other regional powers. "The parties involved must respect the decision of the Venezuelan people," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a press conference in Beijing. Many countries in Latin America have recognized the Venezuelan elections and congratulated President Maduro, such as Cuba, Bolivia and El Salvador.
The so-called Lima Group plus Canada issued a statement Monday saying it did not recognize the legitimacy of Venezuela's presidential election. The Lima Group includes Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Santa Lucia, Canada, Colombia, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala.
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