Venezuela’s Sham Election

Jorge Jraissati

This Sunday, the regime of Nicolas Maduro will hold a sham parliamentary election in Venezuela. The purpose of this “election” is to renew the Venezuelan National Assembly, which is the only institution controlled by the Venezuelan opposition, and the only institution internationally recognized as legitimate and democratic. By holding this fraudulent election, the Maduro regime hopes to bring down its only domestic threat: the interim government of Juan Guaido.

This “election” will be held exactly five years after Venezuela experienced its last real election, when the Venezuelan opposition won the country’s national assembly by a landslide, winning two-thirds of the parliament. At the time, such an overwhelming victory against Maduro led most Venezuelans to believe that change was right around the corner.

Unfortunately, instead of change, Venezuelans saw a radicalization from part of the Maduro regime. Immediately after the election, Maduro ordered its supreme court to declare null all proposals that came from the national assembly. Then, he commanded its electoral court to ban popular opposition parties and candidates. And finally, he created a parallel institution, the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly, to supposedly rewrite the country’s constitution.

Together, these measures made clear to Venezuelans — and the international community — that Venezuela was not a democracy. And that as long as Maduro was in power, the country would never have a free and fair presidential election, the kind of election that would guarantee the end of the Maduro regime. On this issue, Maduro has commented, repeatedly, that the revolution would not be put in jeopardy by an election, even saying that “what could not be done with votes, we would do with weapons.

As a result, the vast majority of Venezuelans will not vote this Sunday. And how could they? The Maduro regime has 1) banned most opposition candidates from running, 2) imprisoned prominent opposition leaders such as Leopoldo Lopez, 3) coerced and intimidated citizens into voting for the socialist party, 4) engaged in verifiable manipulation of vote tallies, 5) organized the process through an election authority controlled by members of Maduro’s party, 6) murdered protesters who exercised their right to assemble peaceably, and 7) disallowed international organizations from observing the vote — among other violations of the political rights of Venezuelans.

For these reasons, what is taking place this Sunday in Venezuela is nothing more than a fraud of the worst kind. Venezuela will not have a free and fair election, but rather a fraudulent process intended to politically crush the interim government of Juan Guaido, especially at the international level. By renewing the parliament, the Maduro regime will try to put in question the legitimacy of Juan Guaido, who became interim president precisely because of his position as president of the national assembly. Specifically, the legal basis for the Guaido presidency lies in articles 230, 231, and 233 of the Venezuelan constitution, which state that after Maduro refused to hold free and fair elections in 2018, the president of the national assembly had to temporarily assume the presidency until fair presidential elections were held.

As a result, I urge the international community to condemn the sham elections that the Maduro regime will hold this Sunday, and accordingly, I invite them to keep working alongside the Venezuelan people, so we can bring free and fair elections to Venezuela, with independent and credible international observation, without political prisoners and banned political parties, and without any kind of voter intimidation.

Similarly, the Organization of American States (OAS) has called on its 35 member states to reject the sham election. Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS, said on the election: “It cannot be accepted by the international community. We must be clear about it, reject that idea and any political margin to try to validate that process.”

Regarding the interim government of Juan Guaido, Guaido maintains his position to not participate in the sham election, as he believes that “to participate in an electoral fraud is to legitimize the dictatorship. For a free and democratic process to exist, it requires [. . .] conditions that are not in place today in Venezuela.” When asked about the legitimacy of his mandate, I agree with Juan Guaido and the Venezuelan National Assembly in that, according to a legal principle known as “administrative continuity,” all members of parliament should maintain their seats beyond 2020. And this is until fair, verifiable, and free elections are held in Venezuela.

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