Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro has proposed holding a “mega-election” in order to provide a sense of “democratic renewal” as he continues to govern the country by decree.
Maduro called early presidential elections last month, which analysts widely expect to be rigged in his favor. His socialist regime has banned the main opposition party from fielding a candidate, and they have vowed to boycott the election, anyway.
“A great parliamentary mega-election in the country, I am proposing it officially to the National Constituent Assembly for its consideration and let’s go for some powerful, powerful elections for a democratic renewal of the country,” he said.
“Let’s go to powerful elections for a democratic renovation of the country, clearing the road for the rest of 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022,” he continued. “Then we can dedicate ourselves entirely to the work of economic prosperity.”
The opposition coalition Movement for Democratic Unity (MUD) immediately dismissed the call as an attempt “to give an impression of legitimacy that it does not have.”
“[It] is just a show by Maduro. In the name of the immense majority of Venezuelans; we challenge the Maduro government to measure itself against the people in real elections,” the group said in a statement.
Popular opposition leaders, including Popular Will leader Leopoldo López and the rightful mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma, have been imprisoned or exiled by the regime. Justice First leader Henrique Capriles Radonski is also barred from running for any public office for more than a decade for openly criticizing the government.
Fraudulent elections have become the norm in Venezuela since the rise of the late socialist revolutionary Hugo Chávez in 1998, who developed electoral tactics such as manipulating ballots and intimidating voters in order to turn the country into a one-party state.
In 2017, Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) managed two electoral frauds, which included manipulating voter turnout for electing members of an illegal pro-government lawmaking body known as the “national constituent assembly,” as well as the storming of regional elections of which the State Department reported on numerous irregularities.
Credible evidence also suggests that Maduro himself lost the 2013 presidential election to Capriles but successfully conducted a voter fraud system that handed him a razor-thin victory of 235,000 votes.
Maduro’s popularity has sunk in recent years as the country faces the worst economic, political, and humanitarian crisis in its history that. Millions of people are starving and hundreds of thousands fleeing the country as refugees.
Hundreds of individuals have also been imprisoned or killed by security forces as the regime ratchets up levels of repression against political dissidents.
No independent candidates have yet announced a run against Maduro. Should Maduro prevail, his “mandate” will be extended for a further six years.