Even after two years, Venezuela’s opposition leader Guaidó has not succeeded in ousting President Maduro from the throne. This Sunday’s election could mean his political end.
He brought thousands of people to the streets and incited soldiers to mutiny, he solicited support for his counter-government around the world and gained access to foreign accounts. It was of no use. Almost two years after Juan Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s transitional head of state, his rival Nicolás Maduro is still sitting in the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas.
On Sunday, Guaidó is also likely to lose control of the National Assembly, where the opposition has had a majority since 2015. In the parliamentary election, 277 members are elected. Most opposition parties expect electoral fraud and have therefore called for a boycott. Observers therefore expect a victory for Maduro’s socialist ruling party, the PSUV, and splinter parties close to the government. This would mean that the opposition would lose the last institution it controlled.
Fair elections not possible in Venezuela
“On December 6th, the dictatorship wants to commit an electoral fraud,” Guaidó said in an audio message this week. “Even the minimum conditions for elections have not been met. Our party leaders are banned from voting, imprisoned or in exile. The best we can do is boycott the election.” The opposition is planning a referendum the week after the election and has called for protests against Maduro on December 12th.
The international community also has little hope of free and fair elections. The EU refuses to send observers because it was only informed about the polls at very short notice. The Organization of American States (OAS) said that free and fair elections are currently not possible in Venezuela.
Military supports Maduro
Venezuela is in a deep political crisis. Guaidó declared himself interim president at the beginning of 2019 and had been recognized as legitimate head of state by numerous countries – including the USA and Germany. However, he never succeeded in asserting himself in Venezuela. Maduro is mainly supported in the power struggle by the powerful military. The United Nations accuse the security forces of serious human rights violations.
While Guaidó had initially managed to unite the notoriously divided opposition of the South American country behind him, the rifts between moderate government opponents and hardliners came to light again with continued failure. “Because Guaidó’s strategy seems increasingly unimaginative, unpredictable and desperate, it was only a matter of time before support for him waned,” said Alejandro Velasco from New York University the specialist portal “Latin America Advisor”.
96 percent live in poverty
The once rich country is also heading deeper and deeper into a humanitarian crisis. Due to a lack of foreign currency and numerous sanctions, it can hardly import food, medicines and everyday necessities. Even gasoline is now in short supply in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world. According to a study by the Catholic University of Andrés Bello, 96 percent of households live in poverty. Millions of Venezuelans have left their homes.
Small and new opposition alliances and parties hijacked by government officials will take part in the parliamentary elections. “We will see an election in which the government participates practically alone and an opposition that does not fundamentally question the position of the government,” said the rector of Andrés Bello University, José Virtuoso, in an interview with the human rights organization Provea.
Reconciliation with the Maduro government is possible
Others hope that a more moderate opposition in the National Assembly could restart the deadlocked dialogue with the government. “If the government is prepared to appear less authoritarian and to discuss laws in parliament, that could have a satisfactory effect,” said the political scientist Ricardo Sucre of the German press agency.
For Guaidó, on the other hand, the election on Sunday could be the beginning of the end of his political adventure, which began as a hussar piece and ultimately threatened to die from exhaustion. “Guaidó’s legal legitimacy is based on his presidency in the National Assembly. The opposition’s moral legitimacy is based on its democratic values,” says Professor Velasco. “Should Guaidó consider remaining as interim president, he is jeopardizing legal and moral legitimacy.”