PREVIEW - Venezuelans To Head To Polls For Parliamentary Elections

MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 06th December, 2020) Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday to elect the country's parliament for the next five years.

The South American country is holding its 26th election since Chavismo, the left-wing ideology of Venezuela's ex-President Hugo Chavez became the political doctrine of power elites in 1999. Sunday's elections will see citizens elect 277 new lawmakers 111 more than in previous elections from 107 political parties and associations with 14,400 candidates running for seats in the unicameral National Assembly.

Polling stations will open at 7 a.m. local time (14:00 GMT) and close at 6 p.m., unless electoral authorities have cause to extend it.

The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and other allied parties will face off a coalition of opposition factions, which currently holds a parliamentary majority.

President Nicolas Maduro is seeking to regain control of the National Assembly, which remains the only government institution in the hands of the opposition.

The National Assembly's contested speaker, opposition leader Juan Guaido, is demanding a boycott of the Sunday vote and has denounced it as a fraud, while the United States, European Union and Organization of American States (OAS) have all voiced concerns regarding the upcoming elections.

This summer, Guaido, who proclaimed himself interim president in a bid to oust Maduro from power in January 2019, said that 27 opposition parties had agreed to not participate in the elections.

ALL IN AS TENSIONS ARE RUNNING HIGH

Just days before the parliamentary elections kick-off, Maduro made a bold announcement in a televised address, saying that he would resign if the opposition forces won the vote.

"If we win, we will go ahead, but I should also say that my fate is in your hands. If the opposition wins, I will step down from the post of president. If the opposition wins the elections, I will no longer stay here, my fate is in the hands of the Venezuelan people," Maduro has said.

Some experts told Sputnik that Venezuela's opposition appears to be losing ground ahead of the elections, after a year of the power struggle between US-backed Guaido and Maduro, a struggle aggravated by months of political unrest, and economic downturn from US sanctions.

The situation became difficult for the opposition on January 5, 2020 when security forces blocked opposition lawmakers, including Guaido, from entering the parliament, which allowed the ruling Socialist Party elect pro-Maduro lawmaker Luis Parra as the new speaker. The parliamentary leadership has been disputed ever since.

"The Venezuelan opposition and its allies have made very serious mistakes, such as not making full use of the momentum at the time Guaido took the reins of the National Assembly and invoked the Constitution to declare his legitimate presidency. After one year, it has lost valuable steam, making any transition much more difficult," Enrico Mario Santi, a research professor at California's Claremont Graduate University, told Sputnik.

The United Nations and the European Union were among the first to receive a letter from Venezuela inviting their observes to monitor the country's parliamentary elections.

The EU has turned down the invitation after its demand that the vote be postponed was refused by Caracas.

Whereas, the UN, Caribbean Community, the African Union and the Council of Latin American Electoral Experts are expected to be present.

In late October, Caracas also invited Russian observers. On December 1, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed that Moscow would send its group of observers to monitor the upcoming vote. Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Russian parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told Sputnik that he would be part of the observation mission in Venezuela.

Russia has expressed hope that Western countries would make no biased assessment of the elections.