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Re-election of Nicolás Maduro as President of Venezuela amid controversy

Incumbent President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro was re-elected in Presidential elections, held on 20 May 2018. Thus he was re- elected for another (second) six-year term. For various reasons the election considered a snap election, was postponed several times from the original scheduled for December 2018 to April 22 and then finally to May 20. The credibility of the election is under suspicion because it had the lowest voter turnout in Venezuela’s democratic history. The opposition parties complained about various irregularities in the election. Several Venezuelan NGOs, such as Foro Penal Venezolano, Súmate, Voto Joven, the Venezuelan Electoral Observatory, and the Citizen Electoral Network expressed their concern over the irregularities of the electoral schedule, including the lack of the Constituent Assembly’s competencies to summon the elections, impeding participation of opposition political parties, and the lack of time for standard electoral functions.

The two leading candidates opposing Maduro, Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci, rejected the results, saying that the election was critically flawed by irregularities and Bertucci asking to repeat the elections without Maduro.Later the United Nations, European Union, the Organization of American States, the Lima Group, and countries such as Australia and the United States rejected the electoral process due to compmplaints of irregularities. However, countries such as China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Turkey and others recognized the election result. At least one of the opponents Bertucci recognized the result afterwards, maintaining his criticism of tactics used by the government.

Background

Following the death of President Hugo Chávez in 2013, Venezuela faced a severe socioeconomic crisis during the presidency of his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Due to the country’s high levels of urban violence, inflation, and chronic shortages of basic goods attributed primarily to the devaluation of the Venezuelan bolívar and to some extent due to economic policies such as strict price controls, civil insurrection in Venezuela culminated into the 2014–18 protests. Protests occurred periodically over the years, with demonstrations occurring in various sizes depending on the events Venezuelans were facing during the crisis. After facing years of crisis, the Venezuelan opposition pursued a recall referendum against President Maduro, presenting a petition to the National Electoral Council (CNE) on 2 May 2016.

By August 2016, the momentum to recall President Maduro appeared to be progressing, with the CNE setting a date for the second phase of collecting signatures, though it made the schedule strenuous, stretching the process into 2017 which made it impossible for the opposition to activate new presidential elections.

On 21 October 2016, the CNE suspended the referendum days before preliminary signature-gatherings were to be held.The CNE blamed several irregularities and alleged voter fraud as the reason for the cancellation of the referendum.[ Days after the recall movement was cancelled, 1.2 million Venezuelans protested throughout the country against the move, demanding President Maduro to leave office, with Caracas protests remaining calm while protests in other states resulted in clashes between demonstrators and authorities, leaving one policeman dead, 120 injured, and 147 arrested. Following the 2017 Venezuelan constitutional crisis, protests in Venezuela intensified in mid-2017, though the movement died down after President Maduro called for a controversial special election, which resulted with the installation of the pro-government superbody, the Constituent National Assembly. Regional elections that occurred months later further cemented the government’s power after they won 18 of the 23 governorships. After the government overcame mass protests and won two major disputed elections, one of which installed a constitutional superbody, the government rallied behind President Maduro, with government sources stating that elections were to be moved ahead to February or March 2018 instead of the planned late-2018 date to take advantage of their electoral momentum. On 11 December 2017, President Maduro announced that many of the main opposition parties, including Justice First and Popular Will, would be banned from participating in the 2018 presidential election because of their boycott of the 2017 municipal elections. In February 2018, the government announced that elections would be held on 22 April 2018, less than three months before the date.

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