Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro proposed pushing forward National Assembly elections on Monday, a move that would allow his socialist regime to steal control of the country’s last democratically elected lawmaking body.
The National Assembly, which is comprised of 545 deputies, is currently controlled by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), an anti-Maduro coalition of mainly left-wing and centrist parties. The Assembly is currently led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who is recognized by the United States and most other western democracies as Venezuela’s legitimate president.
Addressing his supporters at a socialist rally on Monday, Maduro claimed that the idea presented the opportunity to “legitimize the sole institution which has not been legitimized in the last five years,” despite the last Assembly election taking place in 2015.
“I invite the opposition of Venezuela to legitimize the legislative power,” he wrote in a Twitter post on Tuesday. “Let’s accept the challenge of holding early elections of the National Assembly so that, with votes, we show who has the support of the people. That is the way; Peace and democracy.”
Invito a las oposiciones de Venezuela a legitimar el Poder Legislativo. Aceptemos el reto de ir a unas elecciones adelantadas de la Asamblea Nacional para que, con votos, demostremos quien cuenta con el respaldo del pueblo. Ese es el camino; la paz y la democracia. pic.twitter.com/zysXHBsefh
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) May 20, 2019
Responding to the call, Guaidó said that the large-scale abstention during last year’s presidential election, in which Maduro banned nearly all opposition candidates from running, was proof the Venezuelan people would not partake in a rigged process.
“On 20 May 2018 we showed that we don’t take part in a farce,” he said. “A new farce would only worsen the crisis we’re in. Only by putting an end to the usurpation and with a clear referee will there be free elections.”
Una nueva farsa solo agravaría más nuestra crisis. Solo cesando la usurpación y con árbitro transparente habrá elección libre.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) May 21, 2019
Maduro’s desire to bring forward another set of fraudulent elections comes as the National Assembly stands as the only democratically elected institution in the country. In January, the Assembly invoked the Venezuelan constitution to inaugurate Guaidó as the country’s rightful president, a move that has managed to energize the opposition against his regime with the support of the United States and other regional powers.
Maduro stripped away most of the National Assembly’s powers in 2017, creating an illegal yet parallel legislature known as the “national constituent assembly” filled entirely with his own supporters. The constituent assembly has since served as an arm of the regime, passing legislation such as the “Law Against Hatred and Fascism” aimed at silencing political opponents.
Nearly all other elections have been rigged in the regime’s favor using tactics such as intimidation and ballot manipulation, while the regime is also backed by the country’s corrupt electoral board. In the more recent elections, Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has also benefitted from extremely low turnout, as opposition leaders refuse to participate in what they know will be a rigged electoral process.