Venezuelan Opposition Congress Considers Call for New Elections

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly on Wednesday took up a proposal to change the nation’s electoral authorities and convene general elections within seven to nine months as opponents of President Nicolas Maduro look to keep up the pressure on the autocrat’s socialist regime.

The proposal by the assembly, a toothless legislature that was democratically elected but sidelined by the National Constituent Assembly, carries little weight on its own. But it’s the first time the opposition has broached the idea of new elections to resolve the country’s spiraling crisis since Juan Guaido kicked off a drive to oust Maduro earlier this year.

“We want to construct a proposal where there can be an election at a determined date, in short amount of time, but with sufficient guarantees where all actors, and the entire country can participate,” National Assembly Vice President Stalin Gonzalez said during a meeting of the assembly’s electoral commission in downtown Caracas.

The National Assembly, headed by Guaido, is the only institution not controlled by the ruling socialists. It was stripped of nearly all its powers in 2017, but Guaido invoked Venezuela’s charter in January to launch an interim government after Maduro began another six-year term following 2018 elections widely regarded as rigged.

The moved by the opposition is likely to set up a clash with the government’s National Electoral Commission, widely criticized for being stacked with Maduro loyalists and which banned the opposition’s most popular candidates and parties from last year’s election. Since then government opponents have largely boycotted elections and have focused their efforts on street action and international pressure to bring about an end to Maduro’s rule.

The U.S. and about 50 other nations have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful head of state, but his protest movement has stalled in recent weeks amid rolling blackouts, hyperinflation and the continued staunch support by Venezuela’s security and military apparatus for Maduro.

Gonzalez says the proposal would include changing electoral authorities, guarantee the presence of international observers at home as well as protecting Venezuelans’ right to vote abroad.

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