Venezuela’s Election Outcome Isn’t a Done Deal Just Yet

Venezuela’s Election Outcome Isn’t a Done Deal Just Yet
Venezuelan presidential candidate Edmundo Gonzalez Urrutia and opposition leader Mariana Corina Machado appear at a campaign rally in Guatire, Venezuela, May 31, 2024 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

With less than two months before Venezuela’s presidential election, President Nicolas Maduro faces a stark choice. Should he be beaten at the polls, as opinion surveys suggest he will be, Maduro could concede defeat and negotiate a transfer of power with safeguards against legal persecution. Or he could try to steal or invalidate the election. Most observers assume Maduro will opt for the latter, but doing so could put him at even greater personal risk.

For now, Maduro, who has been in office for more than a decade, is campaigning hard to win re-election, denouncing the opposition as “fascist” traitors and puppets of the United States. Nevertheless, the Venezuelan electorate is poised to vote overwhelmingly for Edmundo Gonzalez Urrutia, an unassuming retired career diplomat who has become the opposition’s “accidental candidate.” Gonzalez is running as a replacement for Maria Corina Machado, the opposition primary winner banned by the government from holding office; he has the backing of Machado as well as a broad coalition of political parties.

The regime could still find a way to disqualify Gonzalez, just as it did for Machado and her first choice as an alternate candidate. It could also try to avert scrutiny of the election by disinviting credible international observers, as it has already done with the European Union. But momentum is now building toward the election on July 28, with politicians crisscrossing the country, parties and civic groups organizing to monitor the vote and voters eager to cast a ballot in Venezuela’s first meaningful presidential election in 11 years. Seven million Venezuelans have migrated in the past few years to escape Maduro’s authoritarian rule and economic mismanagement, and most of those who remain are desperate to restore democracy and economic growth.

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