Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro reiterated his call for fresh elections under his control for the country’s National Assembly on Tuesday, with no guarantees against fraud by his regime.
“We are ready to hold parliamentary elections. The country wants the composition of the National Assembly to be renewed,” Maduro reportedly said at a meeting of Venezuela’s defense council, adding that such a move would “strengthen political stability in the country.”
“U.S imperialism tries to harm Venezuela from the inside and from the outside every day,” he continued.
Comprised of 545 deputies, the Venezuelan National Assembly is controlled by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), an anti-Maduro coalition of mainly left-wing and centrist parties. It is led by Popular Will lawmaker Juan Guaidó, sworn in as the nation’s legal president in January. Maduro does not legally hold any political office in Venezuela and thus does not have the power to call for elections.
Maduro first proposed the idea of holding fresh elections last month, telling a rally of supporters that it was an 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 on Twitter at the time. “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
As the 2015 National Assembly elections were the last to not be affected by widespread fraud on behalf of the Maduro regime, it is the only branch of government democratically elected.
Guaidó and other members of the opposition immediately dismissed the new elections, pointing to the socialist regime’s repeated rigging of previous elections, including last year’s presidential election which Maduro supposedly won in a “landslide.”
“On 20 May 2018 we showed that we don’t take part in a farce,” said Guaidó. “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.”
Maduro’s eagerness to bring forward elections to the National Assembly forms part of his efforts to complete the transformation of the country into a Cuban-style communist dictatorship. In January, the Assembly invoked the country’s constitution, written by Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chávez, to appoint Guaidó as the President of Venezuela, a move that has helped re-energize the opposition and international community against the regime.
Maduro attempted to strip the National Assembly of the majority of its powers in 2017 by creating an illegal parallel legislature known as the “national constituent assembly” filled solely with his supporters. The constituent assembly mainly operates as an arm of the regime, passing legislation such as the “Law Against Hatred and Fascism” aimed at criminalizing political opposition.
Maduro, and before him Chávez, have committed fraud to ensure victory in most elections by using an electoral system engineered to guarantee total power for the socialist regime. The regime employs intimidation of impoverished communities, ballot manipulation, and suppressing voter turnout to stay in power. Despite Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) “winning” the majority of recent elections, opinion polls suggest that he is not supported by a majority of Venezuelans as a result of the country’s devastating economic and humanitarian crisis.