The supreme court of Venezuela has put a pause on the outcome of the opposition’s primary elections, following María Corina Machado’s decisive victory last Sunday. She will likely face incumbent President Nicolás Maduro in the 2024 presidential race.
The tribunal, which is filled with Maduro’s supporters, additionally confirmed the prohibitions on seeking political positions that were imposed on Machado and two other individuals.
The recent decision on Monday aimed to create uncertainty about Machado’s qualification and is likely to elicit a response from the US. The US had recently removed sanctions on Venezuela in return for the government’s promise to conduct fair elections under the supervision of European observers.
A spokesperson for the state department stated that they are calling on Nicolas Maduro and his team to fulfill the promises they made when signing the political agreement. The US government will take steps if Maduro and his team fail to meet these commitments.
The court ruling came after Venezuela’s attorney general announced last week that the primaries, which were held independently without the involvement of the government, were under investigation for financial crimes and conspiracy.
Machado received over 90% of the votes, surpassing expectations, and experts anticipate that she would likely defeat Maduro in a fair election.
According to Phil Gunson, a senior analyst at Crisis Group for the Andes region, the Chavista government may use the accusation of fraud in Machado’s selection to raise more uncertainty about her eligibility to run. They may also argue that her ban is not relevant to the issue.
Gunson stated that there is no law or legal justification for this action.
The opposition leaders have dismissed the accusations made against the primary procedure and have affirmed their support for Machado as the opposition’s chosen candidate.
“I reaffirm my backing for [the primary elections] and the skilled groups that facilitated it,” stated Delsa Solorzano, a representative of Venezuela’s parliament. “Venezuela has spoken and no force can alter the determination of a country seeking change.”
Due to corruption and poor management of the economy, exacerbated by sanctions on oil, over 7 million individuals have been compelled to leave Venezuela due to the country’s severe lack of food, extreme inflation, and frequent power outages within the last ten years.
Despite the collapse of the country, Maduro has managed to maintain his power through rigging elections, bribing military officials, and using human rights violations to intimidate political opponents.
According to Gunson, the recent decision made by the supreme court may cause even more division among the opposition. Some members may support participating in the 2024 elections, while others may prefer to boycott them.
He also mentioned that it is a tactic to discourage voters and make them believe that their participation in the election is futile.
The highest court has mandated that the opposing party submit all documents pertaining to the elections, including candidate registration and voter records, within a three-day period. This will allow an electoral commission to thoroughly investigate the accusations.
The opposing party has expressed worries that the records may be utilized to target and harm the opposition, potentially disrupting the upcoming elections.
Geoff Ramsey, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, stated that this action is a blatant breach of the agreement made between the government and the opposition in Barbados. It also intensifies the already existing political crisis. He added that Maduro’s behavior suggests a lack of concern for the possibility of the US reinstating sanctions.