The Venezuelan opposition is holding primaries before the presidential elections in 2024
The Venezuelan opposition holds primaries on Sunday to choose a single consensus candidate to face the ruling Socialist Party in the upcoming presidential election.
The race is organized by the National Primary Committee and ten candidates are vying to face President Nicolas Maduro in his potential bid for re-election next year.
All Venezuelans are invited to vote, according to the National Primary Commission, an entity run by the opposition coalition independently of the government and the National Electoral Commission.
The primaries have been in the works for months and are being funded by opposition organizations. More than 3,000 voting centers were set up in places provided by civil society, social organizations, private homes as well as some public places. Voting centers have also been set up in more than 80 cities in 30 countries for Venezuelans seeking to vote from abroad.
This is the first time in more than ten years that the opposition coalition has organized a primary vote to choose a unified candidate. In 2012, nearly two million voters elected Henrique Capriles as the coalition candidate. Capriles competed in two presidential elections in 2012 and 2013, losing in both to the late President Hugo Chavez and Maduro, respectively. He also filed to run in this year’s primary, but withdrew earlier this month.
Turnout this year is expected to be much lower than in 2012, partly because of the social and economic crisis in the once-prosperous country, and partly because the National Electoral Commission did not support the organization of the race. With more than 25% of Venezuelans now living abroad, immigration trends could also play a role in hindering voter turnout, according to election experts who spoke to CNN this week.
Front-runner Maria Corina Machado, also a veteran of the 2012 primaries, told CNN en Español on Sunday that she was proud to be part of the process. “I ask you to remember how many people thought this was impossible, and we overcame all the obstacles,” he said after casting his vote.
However, her candidacy has attracted scrutiny, as Machado is currently disqualified from holding public office by the Maduro-allied Comptroller General’s Office, which accuses her of tax fraud.
Sunday’s primary elections come days after the Venezuelan government and the country’s opposition signed a comprehensive political agreement, detailing political guarantees for the next presidential elections scheduled for the second half of 2024, including the participation of international observers.
Shortly after the agreement was signed on Tuesday in Bridgetown, Barbados, the United States issued a statement celebrating the political agreement and announcing the easing of most sanctions imposed on Venezuela’s energy and mining industries.
As part of the agreement, Maduro also released at least five political prisoners, including two opposition leaders.
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