Three major Venezuelan opposition parties will boycott the upcoming municipal elections in December to protest an election system that they say is rigged to favor President Nicolás Maduro’s ruling party. During a press conference October 30, representatives of the First Justice (PJ), Democratic Action (AD), and Popular Will (VP) parties announced that they will not run candidates in December’s local elections.
National Assembly President and PJ leader Julio Borges claims that Maduro’s authorities cheated in the 2013 presidential election, denied Venezuelans a recall referendum last year, and rigged October’s gubernatorial vote.
“We want free elections without blackmail, without pressure on the media, without disqualifications, and without the unjustified arrests of candidates,” said Borges.
Borges also asserted that the opposition should focus on securing electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 presidential race.
AD member Henry Ramos Allup said that party members who enroll as candidates would be expelled from its ranks. “We will continue fighting for free elections,” he stated. “Other dictatorships have fallen because of people’s demands for a free vote.”
The announcement follows the opposition’s unexpected defeat in the October 15 regional elections, in which it secured just five of 23 state governorships. The leading opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), condemned the results as fraudulent, though it has yet to provide proof of this claim.
The electoral defeat further fractured the already-divided anti-government bloc, with four out of five of the winning opposition governors swearing loyalty to the pro-Maduro National Constituent Assembly against the orders of MUD leadership. The elected governors were promptly expelled from the coalition.
Opposition members have been split over participating in the elections since earlier this year. Some argue that voting is the only way to show that most Venezuelans disapprove of the governing Socialist Party, but a growing number contend that there is no point in engaging with a rigged system.
In response to the MUD’s announcement, President Nicolás Maduro threatened to jail those whom he says are seeking to sabotage the polls.
“I declare myself in battle against those who intend to revolt and attack the electoral system,” said Maduro. “There are enough places in prisons for those who want to set Venezuela on fire.”