US condemns electoral threat issued by Venezuela’s Maduro
December 12, 2017
On 11 December, the US Department of State issued a statement condemning the recent threat made by Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro to ban from the general election due next year all opposition political parties that decided to boycott the 10 December municipal polls.
Significance: The threat made by President Maduro in the wake of the municipal polls, that were marked by low participation and opposition complaints that the entire electoral process was fraudulent, has increased international concerns that the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) government led by Maduro is continuing on his authoritarian bent and that Maduro now wants to perpetuate himself in power. The US is not alone in condemning the Maduro’s threat, with Brazil also expressing its rejection. All this could lead to an unprecedented level of diplomatic pressure being placed on the Maduro government to engage with the political opposition in a meaningful dialogue to try to find a solution to Venezuela’s political crisis and ensure the holding of a free, fair, and transparent general election.
Three of the largest parties that make up the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) main opposition coalition decided to boycott the municipal elections amid concerns that they would be hijacked by the government, as the MUD considers happened in the October regional elections, and in protest at the government’s failure to engage in a meaningful dialogue process with it.
Following the release of preliminary official results from the municipal elections, which gave the PSUV a sweeping victory, President Maduro proclaimed that the political opposition had been wiped out by the PSUV. Maduro went on to say that “any party that did not take part today and called for a boycott of the elections, cannot participate any longer”.
The US Department of State was quick to respond to Maduro’s remarks. Spokesperson Heather Nauert first criticised these in a tweet, in which she described them as “yet another extreme measure to close democratic space in Venezuela & consolidate power in his [Maduro’s] authoritarian dictatorship”. Hours later the Department of State issued a statement condemning Maduro’s “threat” and noting that “a presidential election cannot be legitimate if candidates and parties cannot freely participate”.
The US State Department’s view was shared by Brazil’s foreign minister, Aloysio Nunes. In a tweet released yesterday, Nunes expressed deep concern and described Maduro’s threat as “absurd”. Nunes added that this was “incompatible” with the will to negotiate a solution with the opposition that the Maduro government has expressed in the internationally sponsored dialogue being hosted by the Dominican Republic.
Looking Ahead: The next round of the Venezuela political dialogue is due to start on 15 December. Maduro’s comments are now bound to be discussed then, as the US Department of State has called for the two sides “to agree to a timeline that allows free, fair, transparent, and internationally observed presidential elections”.
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