Venezuela's Setting of Electoral Calendar Fails to Dispel Anger

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s setting of dates for a constituent assembly and regional elections that had been postponed failed to calm the streets as the opposition rejected President Nicolas Maduro’s plans to push forward with a new constitution and called for more protests Wednesday.

Tibisay Lucena, the National Electoral Council president, said late Tuesday that elections for representatives to redo the constitution would take place in late July and that elections for state governors and municipal mayors will be held Dec. 10. Last October she said state elections would be held before July and local elections would take place at the end of 2017.

Venezuela has been rocked by more than a month and a half of protests as the opposition seeks fresh presidential elections amid triple-digit inflation, record shortages of food and medicine and rising crime rates. The death toll from the latest clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces have left 54 people dead. Attempts to force a recall referendum by the opposition were thwarted earlier this year by the government and the electoral council which is stacked with Maduro loyalists.

“We call on the people to protest against the CNE which is an accomplice to Maduro,” National Assembly President Julio Borges said after the announcement in reference to the electoral board. “If they had allowed the recall referendum, we would already have a new government.”

Amid the escalating nationwide tensions with demonstrations often turning violent some analysts have begun to see an increased likelihood of regime change.

“Regardless of the catalyst, a political transition is no longer a question of if, but when,” Eurasia Group analysts Risa Grais-Targow and Agata Ciesielska wrote in an emailed note on Tuesday. “Social dynamics are becoming more tenuous, suggesting that we are nearing a breaking point.”

Maduro earlier delivered his proposal for the rules governing the constituent assembly to Lucena. Government opponents have argued that the assembly is a gambit to further marginalize the opposition under the guise of a democratic election.

Under the current constitution, Venezuela would hold new presidential elections toward the end of 2018. Maduro is serving a six-year term after winning snap elections in 2013 following the death of his socialist predecessor Hugo Chavez.