Venezuela will hold legislative elections on Dec. 6, election officials announced on Monday following months of speculation that the election would be delayed or canceled outright.
The president of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, said in a nationally televised press conference that the organisation had always intended to set a date and was not reacting to public pressure.
“These attacks and phony analyses from national experts and international figures have mostly been very ignorant,” she said.
The announcement came after the clear opening of tentative negotiations between the United States and Venezuela on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations.
The US had demanded Venezuela’s freeing political prisoners and setting a date for legislative elections in return for Caracas’ request for re-establishing diplomatic ties.
The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) currently holds a majority of seats, but polls indicate that if the elections were held now, the opposition coalition would win in a landslide.
The discontent is growing with President Nicolas Maduro, driven by Venezuela’s rampant crime, the drop in oil revenues and chronic shortage of basic goods.
Opposition parties have accused the government-appointed election officials of dragging their feet because of Maduro’s poor approval ratings.
Jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been on hunger strike since May, has demanded that the government set a date for the elections and allow international observers to supervise the election.
It was not immediately known if Lopez, who has been imprisoned for more than a year on charges of inciting violence during anti-government protests last year, would end his strike.
Following the announcement of election date, Maduro said that it marks the 17th anniversary of Chavez’s first election when he launched the country’s socialist revolution after voters chose him overwhelmingly on Dec. 6, 1998.
“I said to myself, ‘Comandante Chávez, the people are not going to fail you. December 6 will be a great new victory,’” Maduro said.