The Venezuelan nation participated in the national presidential elections held on May 20, 2018. From the very beginning, these elections were subject to constant rescheduling. Initially they were supposed to be held in December, 2018 but the ruling party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), under President Nicolas Maduro preponed them to April, 2018. As a result, the opposition expressed their outrage and after much effort, the elections were once again pushed to May 20, 2018. According to the results declared by the National Electoral Council (CNE), President Maduro obtained 5.8 million votes while his main opponent, Henri Falcon received a total of 1.8 million votes. President Maduro once again won the race for the presidency and will reign for the next six years. The turnout in this election was low as compared to the 2013 election when it was more than 80 percent.
Venezuela has experienced persistent political and economic crisis particularly after the death of the charismatic President Hugo Chavez in 2013. The last five years under the presidency of Nicola Maduro have been marked by a turbulent period during which the Venezuelans have been reeling from five years of recession, falling oil production under US sanctions, increasing malnutrition with hyperinflation, and mass emigration to the neighboring countries; particularly Colombia. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the inflation in the country to reach 13,000 percent in 2018. Such a bleak picture of the present-day Venezuela is a result of the political instability intrigued by the constant struggle for the power between PSUV and the main opposition coalition the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). The rift exacerbated during the municipal election on December 10, 2017 which was won by the PSUV party of Mr. Maduro. At the time, the MUD had not nominated their candidates for the election as a sign of protest against flawed electoral system. This cleared the ground for PSUV’s victory in municipal elections and gave Maduro the necessary momentum to enhance its influence over judiciary as well. This success also motivated PSUV to schedule early presidential elections in order to secure another term amid crippling economic situation and social vows.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the inflation in the country to reach 13,000 percent in 2018.
The results of the recent presidential elections have been rejected by the main opposition contestant Henri Falcon on the account of irregularities, mismanagement in the election process which, according to him, has turned election results in the favor of Mr. Maduro. Henri Falcon has demanded another vote in his recent comments over the results. A total of 8.6 million Venezuelans voted, putting turnout at 46.01 percent, lower than the projected 48 percent, according to the CNE. MUD regarded as the main opposition coalition did not participate in the election, while the two most popular opposition leaders, Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo Lopez, were barred from running in the vote. Claudio Fermin, the Campaign Chief of Falcon’s party and his team documented 900 cases of voting misdeeds involving benefits being offered outside polling stations to those who supported the President. On the other hand, the President and his supporters denied all allegations on the pretext that international conspiracy is being fabricated against Venezuela to exploit its crude oil resources by denying the right of Venezuelans.
The international community reacted strongly to the election results in Venezuela. The US, European Union and 14 nations from throughout the Americas have conveyed their serious concerns by considering recent elections as fraudulent. The countries in the Lima Group have raised many questions over the fairness and transparency being practiced in the election process. While Russia, Turkey and Cuba raised their voices in the support of the election process by calling it legitimate.
The National Electoral Council of Venezuela has declared results of the presidential elections for the next six years. But the road to democracy does not seem smooth because the successful candidate has to deal with serious political challenges in coming days. The legitimacy of the elections is one of the contested questions that will test the nerves of President Maduro. The main presidential opponent Henri Falcon has called for re-election by dismissing the results of recent elections. This might be irking some for the new government and may lead to country-wide protests and attract international attention. Also, the recent elections were conducted after 40 opposition parties were declared illegal. This has stocked anger against National Electoral Council (NEC) as it is considered to be under complete control of the ruling elite. The constituent assembly has been dysfunctional since the beginning due to the controversial elections.
A total of 8.6 million Venezuelans voted, putting turnout at 46.01 percent, lower than the projected 48 percent, according to the CNE.
The political chaos that erupted as a consequence of the irregular elections over the last year has compounded into the current unstable political situation in Venezuela. Significantly, the municipality election that has given PSUV complete control of the National Constitution Assembly (NCA) played a critical role in President Nicolas Maduro’s recent success. The timing and the environment in which these presidential elections were conducted remained entirely conducive for the ruling government due to its monopoly and control over state legislative bodies and major media groups. The internal split and disagreement among opposition forces is regarded as an important factor which has paved way for Mr. Maduro to tighten its grip over the results of presidential elections. The political mayhem ushered social upheaval in Venezuela leading to civil discomfort, protests and high crime rates in the country.
A stable democratic transition in Venezuela under the current presidential elections looks difficult. The charged political environment after the announcement of the election results promises a potential political confrontation between President Nicola Maduro and his opponents. It is likely that such a politically dividend environment will put Venezuela on the crossroads of a deep political crisis which may trap the entire country into a permanent quagmire.