Venezuela’s Umpteenth Electoral Fraud

Venezuela’s dictator, Nicolás Maduro, is preparing a new electoral fraud for December 6, when he will hold a parliamentary election that will hand him control of the National Assembly. To make matters worse, part of the opposition is facilitating this outcome. Henrique Capriles, the candidate who ran against Maduro in the last presidential election, is complicit in the fraud the government is organizing—he has broken ranks with 27 other parties and announced that his political organization will participate.

The National Assembly has been under the theoretical control of the opposition since 2015, when the Coalition for Democratic Unity managed, despite severe limitations imposed by the government and systematic acts of intimidation, to obtain a majority of the seats. In practice, however, the government has used several tools to reduce the Assembly to impotence. Among other things, in 2017 the Supreme Court, an institution highly subservient to Maduro, assumed all the parliamentary powers, making sure no decision coming from the Assembly has any significance.

This tug of war led to the crisis of 2019, when the Assembly determined that Maduro was an illegitimate president and, based on the constitution, elected Juan Guaidó, the head of that body, interim president. The move led to the recognition of Guaidó by more than fifty countries, including the United States. Although the international pressure and the various attempts at unseating Maduro failed to topple the regime, the diplomatic isolation and the domestic crisis (five million Venezuelans have fled the country due to the catastrophic economy and the violence) made the dictator’s life very difficult. Which is why his obsession is to take control of the majority of the seats in the Assembly and render Guaido’s position untenable. In his calculations, this would force the countries that recognize Guaido to abandon him and support some form of negotiation that leaves Maduro in power.

A large majority of the opposition is boycotting the December 6 parliamentary election. Most of the important opposition figures are banned from standing in any election, the government is not allowing rallies and other campaign events, and the electoral body is notorious, together with the Supreme Court, for committing electoral fraud after electoral fraud. But Capriles and a few other prominent figures who felt relegated to the side stage by the emergence of Guaidó have found an opportunity to take center stage. They have agreed to put forward parliamentary candidates from their parties even though they themselves would not be allowed to run for office because of a ban based on trumped-up corruption charges.

Several countries governed by left or center-left leaders have been uncomfortable with the recognition of Guaidó as interim president since the beginning. Spain, whose voice in the European Union on Latin American matters carries weight, is one of them. The fact that the EU is now pushing for a new dialogue between the Maduro regime and the opposition despite the failure of several previous attempts, and the contacts Europe has established with Maduro to try to persuade him to postpone the December election in return for sending observers and legitimizing its outcome, indicate that the international front is now as divided as the domestic opposition.

Maduro has thus far shown himself unwilling to make any concessions even to potential international allies and is determined to carry out his electoral fraud on December 6, which will make it very difficult for the EU to accept the results. In any case, the real problem has always been life inside the Venezuelan dictatorship, not the diplomatic chess game. The end of the opposition-led Assembly, even if this body was never able to act effectively, will be a hard blow for the cause of freedom in Venezuela.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute. His Independent books include Global Crossings, Liberty for Latin America, and The Che Guevara Myth.
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