Opposition remains divided in lead-up to Venezuela regional, local elections

By Gonzalo Dominguez Loeda

Caracas, Sep 20 (EFE).- Venezuela’s opposition faces an uphill battle ahead of upcoming regional and municipal elections, striving to overcome internal divisions, project an image of unity and convince skeptical citizens that they can effect change at the ballot box.

Despite the country’s longstanding economic crisis, widespread poverty and high rates of violent crime and inflation, that lack of cohesiveness is apparent in the key central state of Miranda, which is the country’s second largest by population and includes parts of East Caracas.

The opposition still has not coalesced around one candidate even though the National Electoral Council in June gave the go-ahead for the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), the leading opposition political grouping, to participate in elections for the first time since 2018.

It was with the MUD that anti-Chavista forces opposed to leftist President Nicolas Maduro – the successor to long-time President Hugo Chavez, in office from 1999 until his death from cancer in 2013 – obtained their biggest electoral victory in the 2015 parliamentary elections.

With two months remaining before the Nov. 21 balloting, it remains unclear whether David Uzcategui, who is backed by several mayors, or Carlos Ocariz, who has the support of Henrique Capriles, Miranda’s governor from 2008 to 2017 and a two-time presidential candidate, will take on incumbent Miranda Gov. Hector Rodriguez of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

The president of the polling firm Datanalisis, Luis Vicente Leon, told Efe that “if the election were to take place on Sunday,” turnout would be around 40 percent, adding that voter participation numbers are trending upward.

Leon said the opposition could pose a challenge to the PSUV if turnout ranges from between 40 percent and 50 percent because it is in the majority nationwide, noting that Chavista voters may represent 20 percent to 25 percent of the total population but “are totally committed.”

People are tired of the opposition’s call in recent years to boycott elections, according to the Datanalisis chief, who said the strategy essentially consists of saying, “‘don’t do anything’ yet offers you no alternative.”

The opposition urged voters to abstain from the 2020 parliamentary elections and the 2018 presidential election, saying they would not be free and fair, allowing Maduro to sail to a virtually uncontested victory and his allies to win 92 percent of the seats in the unicameral National Assembly.

But opposition parties reversed their stance late last month and will compete in November as a coalition known as the Unitary Platform of Venezuela.

“We know that these elections will not be fair or conventional elections. The dictatorship has imposed serious obstacles that put the Venezuelan people’s expression of change at risk. However, we understand that they will be a useful fighting ground to strengthen citizenship and promote the true solution to the serious crisis in our country,” that platform said in an Aug. 31 statement.

The Unitary Platform’s get-out-the-vote effort must appeal to people like Leyza Flores, who told Efe she is completely in the opposition camp and wishes she were enthusiastic about voting but is less motivated than in previous elections.

Jeanette Montiel, 71, expressed similar sentiments, saying that she had nearly always exercised her right to vote until recently.

She stressed the need for free and fair elections but also said new opposition leadership could be the cure for her current political apathy. EFE


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