World News

Venezuela Puts Up Roadblock for Opposition in Next Presidential Vote

Posted December 20, 2017 9:15 p.m. EST

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, the political body created by President Nicolás Maduro as an end run around the legislature, on Wednesday made it harder for opposition politicians to run for president.

In a unanimous vote — a turn of events increasingly common in the Constituent Assembly — lawmakers adopted a decree declaring that political parties that want to participate in coming elections must have been active in previous ones.

The could mean trouble for the three biggest opposition parties, which called on members to abstain in protest from recent municipal elections.

“It’s the way they have to establish control of the coming presidential elections,” said Nicmer Evans, a political analyst and former independent candidate for mayor in Caracas, the capital.

The presidential election will take place next year, on a date still to be determined.

The governing party had already confirmed that Maduro will run again, but the opposition has not named any candidates yet.

Now, they may not be able to. The decree could prevent all their candidates from taking part in the election.

The decree, in part, says, “Political organizations, in order to participate in the national, regional or municipal electoral processes, must have participated in the elections of the constitutional period of national, regional or municipal level immediately previous.”

Leaders of opposition parties like Henrique Capriles, a former presidential candidate, or Leopoldo López, a political prisoner, have only one option: to try to renew the legal status of their parties by applying to the National Electoral Council, which has been accused of allowing fraudulent practices in previous elections.

On its Twitter account, the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela offered a rebuke of the decision, saying: “The Venezuelan government and its illegitimate National Constituent Assembly are creating rules as they go. This is not democracy. The different political views make strong democracies.”

Luis Florido, who has been taking part in discussions between the government and the opposition, said the new rule was perplexing. It affects parties that are now in negotiations with Maduro’s government, he said.

“It is paradoxical that the government annuls parties that are in the process of international negotiation,” Florido said on Twitter. “Will the government delegation sit with outlawed representatives?”