Election board angers Venezuelan opposition with delay

Public dissatisfaction with the country's socialist government is growing as an economic crisis continues. The decision to delay state elections until next year could further fuel political tensions.

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Critics say authorities have deliberately delayed the elections, fearing that Venezuelans will vote the government out if the country goes to the polls in December. Picture: Venezuela's National Assembly holds a session on April 20, 2016.

Venezuela’s state elections will be held in 2017 rather than December this year, when they were scheduled to take place, the country’s election board has said.

Caracas’ socialist government is unpopular and opposition parties are demanding a referendum on whether President Nicolas Maduro should stay in power.

"This decision by the election board is part of a dangerous trend by a regime clearly acting outside the constitution," the Democratic Unity coalition, an opposition party, said in a statement.

Critics say authorities have deliberately delayed the elections, fearing that Venezuelans will vote the government out if the country goes to the polls in December.

Maduro’s ratings are down in opposition polls, as an economic crisis in the South American nation deepens due to plummeting oil prices. Food items are in short supply, queues are long and inflation is rising.

The Venezuelan opposition has pushed for a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro from his position. In this image he is speaking during a visit to Ecuador's National Assembly in Quito on October 17, 2016. (Reuters)

Government sources have said they are hoping for an oil price recovery before any election is held. The South American nation is a member of OPEC and a significant oil supplier.

The 23 state governors' four-year terms were to end in early January. The socialists swept to victory in 20 states in the last regional elections in 2012.

Maduro replaced the more popular Hugo Chavez, a fellow socialist, after his death in 2013. 

Even if Venezuela's opposition collect the 4 million signatures needed to trigger a referendum on whether Maduro should remain president, such a vote would take place next year.

In addition, if Maduro is ousted in a referendum next year, under Venezuela's constitution his vice president would take over until the next presidential election in 2018.

Lilian Tintori (C), wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, greets supporters during a rally demanding a referendum on removing Maduro from power. Next to her is opposition leader Maria Corina Machado (L). Caracas, October 13, 2016.

TRTWorld and agencies