Venezuela’s Supreme Court has ordered the disqualification of opposition leader Juan Guaidó from his political party Voluntad Popular (Popular Willpower). The decision also removes Leopoldo López, the founder of Popular Willpower, as the party’s official leader.
Leopoldo López, Guaido’s political mentor and the opposition’s presidential candidate in the 2012 elections, vowed to continue fighting against the government in a series of tweets after the ruling. Lopez was detained in 2014 for leading violent anti-government protests which resulted in 43 deaths and was sentenced to nearly 14 years in jail.
In 2017, he was granted permission to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest. Shortly thereafter he appeared on a bridge alongside Guaido and a group of troops calling on the military to rise against Maduro. The insurrection attempt failed and Lopez sought refuge in the Spanish Embassy, where he has remained for over a year.
The court’s decision earlier this week follows the disqualification of controversial leaders of two of Venezuela’s other main opposition political parties by the Supreme Court in June. The earlier decision of the Supreme Court affected Democratic Action and Justice First, and involved the disqualification of party leaders who had consistently urged boycotts of elections and attempted to incite military officers to carry out a coup and install them in power.
A new National Electoral Council, appointed last month, is pressing forward with plans to hold elections for the National Assembly on the 6th of December. The National Assembly is the only branch of government still dominated by the opposition. Many of the most high profile opposition leaders have indicated they will not participate in the election, particular those backed by the US.
The electoral council recently released a list of the parties that will be permitted to run in the upcoming election – Popular Willpower is not among them. The chief prosecutor has been urging the Supreme Court to declare the party a terrorist organization.
“They want to make it quite clear that Guaidó is history,” said Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Venezuela’s opposition has floundered over the last year as repeated attempts by US-backed opposition leaders to instigate armed insurrections and mass rebellions have found successively less adherents. From protests rallies between 2014 and 2017 that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets, many of whom were willing to set up barricades, destroy and loot public property and enter into violent confrontations with security forces, opposition support has plummeted and major protests have not taken place this year. LINK
The timetable for the legislative elections includes electoral registry sessions from July 13 to 26, with electoral candidates and lists to be presented from August 10 to 19 and the election campaign itself will be held from November 21 to December 6. The schedule could be altered if necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The membership of the National Assembly will be increased in the next term, with voters electing 277 deputies for the 2021-2026 period, 110 more than in the current period. However, the 87 electoral districts that currently exist will not be changed. Out of the 277 AN deputies, 48 will for the first time be elected from a national list, and the rest will be allocated among the 87 constituencies with a 52-48 split between electoral lists and individual nominations.
The objective of the reforms is to provide for greater proportional legislative representation to ensure more “political pluralism.”
According to the National Electoral Council, 28 national political organizations, 52 regional parties and six parties representing Indigenous peoples have been approved to participate in the December election. The changes to electoral norms had been one of the topics discussed in the National Dialogue Roundtable between the government and a host of small opposition parties.
Following the announcement of the schedule for the legislative elections, President Nicolas Maduro called on Venezuelans to participate in the parliamentary elections, stressing that the government will put safety and healthcare protocols in place.
“We have seen elections held around the world during this pandemic, and Venezuela is no exception,” he said in a televised address. Maduro went on to add that the participation of 86 political organizations “strengthens democracy and peace in the country.”
Leander Perez, a member of the Homeland for All (PPT) party, told news outlet Venezuelanalysis that the new rules could benefit smaller parties and that leftist organizations such as the PPT and the Venezuelan Communist Party have been demanding more proportional representation for years.
“The new rules encourage smaller parties to submit their own national lists and achieve representation in the AN. The previous setup forced them to run in large coalitions, the [government-led] Great Patriotic Pole and the [opposition alliance] MUD.
We need to set up a bloc that will act independently from the [ruling] PSUV, in alliance with popular movements, to defend a leftist agenda such as: demanding higher salaries and the release of imprisoned trade unionists, opposing the evictions of farming communities, and denouncing privatizations.”
Opposition leader Juan Guaido reiterated that he will not take part in the elections. “There can be no elections in Maduro’s Venezuela,” a statement from Guaido’s press office read. The opposition leader has rejected taking part in elections as long as Maduro remains in office, repeatedly urging Venezuela’s armed forces to oust the president and install him in power. LINK
The new leaders of the other major opposition parties, Democratic Action and Justice First, who took up their positions following the intervention by the country’s Supreme Court last month, have declared their intention to participate in the December contests. All US-backed and Guaido-aligned leaders have called for a boycott of the elections.
The US government has also declared it would not recognize the upcoming legislative elections.
While the latest moves have been universally denounced and condemned by Western media outlets, the final decision as to whether the decision to disqualify opposition leaders who have sought to prevent and disrupt elections and have consistently called for armed insurrection and rebellion and US intervention will be made by Venezuelans between now and December. A high turnout will vindicate the decision, a low turnout will signal that Venezuela faces a continuation of political instability and will make the country even more vulnerable to foreign intervention.
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