Venezuela's mainstream opposition is boycotting the election and two of their most popular leaders are barred from standing. Here's a look at the three candidates that are running in Sunday's vote.

leading politicians are in jail, exiled or barred from standing. The coalition says the vote is a sham designed to legitimize President Nicolas Maduro.  That decision has left space for alternatives such as Bertucci and Maduro's main challenger, former state Governor Henri Falcon. Many opposition supporters distrust the two candidates and plan to abstain from voting, but having two rival opposition candidates will split the votes of those who do go to the polls.
leading politicians are in jail, exiled or barred from standing. The coalition says the vote is a sham designed to legitimize President Nicolas Maduro. That decision has left space for alternatives such as Bertucci and Maduro's main challenger, former state Governor Henri Falcon. Many opposition supporters distrust the two candidates and plan to abstain from voting, but having two rival opposition candidates will split the votes of those who do go to the polls. (Reuters)

Venezuela will hold its presidential election on Sunday amidst ongoing protests over the years-long economic crisis and chronic shortages of medicine and foodstuffs. 

Incumbent leftist leader Nicolas Maduro expected to win, given a boycott by the mainstream opposition whose most popular leaders are barred from running. 

TRT World's Juan Carlos Lamas reports.

While polls are mixed and unreliable due to the anticipated larger-than-usual abstention, some show Henri Falcon, one of the candidates, ahead of Maduro. 

Here's a look at the three candidates running in the early election. 

Nicolas Maduro

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gestures during a campaign rally in Charallave on May 15, 2018. Venezuela holds presidential elections on May 20, in which Maduro is seeking a second six-year term.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gestures during a campaign rally in Charallave on May 15, 2018. Venezuela holds presidential elections on May 20, in which Maduro is seeking a second six-year term. (AFP)
  • Maduro has long promoted himself as the heir to "Chavismo," the political movement begun by his late predecessor Hugo Chavez. His policies have remained very much in line with the maverick former leader.
  • He largely continued Chavez's policies of nationalisations, currency and price controls and social handouts. Critics saw this as further damaging Venezuela’s economy and say reforms then would have helped avoid today's crisis.
  • During his tenure, hyperinflation has soared and supermarket shelves have emptied. Looting and rioting are common across the country given shortages and power outages. Voter disaffection propelled the opposition to win the 2015 parliamentary election, its first major electoral victory in nearly a decade.
  • Maduro blames Venezuela's crisis on an "economic war" waged by Washington and the opposition. He promises to win that war should he be re-elected though critics point to his lack of reforms over the last five years.


Henri Falcon

Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon speaks during a campaign rally at the Petare neighborhood in Caracas on May 14, 2018.
Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon speaks during a campaign rally at the Petare neighborhood in Caracas on May 14, 2018. (AFP)
  • Falcon is a 56-year-old former soldier and governor of Lara state. His candidacy is controversial and he has been criticised by much of the opposition, which decided to boycott the election. In the eyes of many, Falcon only serves to legitimise Maduro's inevitable win.
  • His key policy is to dollarise Venezuela's economy, replacing the bolivar which has weakened well over 99 percent against the dollar since Maduro came to power. At rallies, he likes to give out mock $100 bills.
  • Falcon and Wall Street heavyweight Francisco Rodriguez, his chief economic adviser, also plan to reform state oil company PDVSA, the government's cash cow, by separating it from the Oil Ministry, asking the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to raise quotas and strengthening the role of foreign partners.
  • Some see Falcon as a possible transition figure, able to unite two heavily divided groups.


Javier Bertucci

Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate and evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci speaks to supporters, during his campaign closing rally in Valencia, Venezuela on May 16, 2018. Opposition activists were demonstrating in Venezuela against the May 20 presidential election, urging those running against Maduro to withdraw their candidacy.
Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate and evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci speaks to supporters, during his campaign closing rally in Valencia, Venezuela on May 16, 2018. Opposition activists were demonstrating in Venezuela against the May 20 presidential election, urging those running against Maduro to withdraw their candidacy. (AFP)
  • An evangelical pastor, Bertucci, 48, currently trails both Maduro and Falcon in the presidential polls. He is the founder of the Maranatha Church, which says it has fed millions across Venezuela.
  • Bertucci, like many evangelicals in Latin America, ardently opposes abortion and insists adoption should not be available for same-sex couples.
  • His candidacy has gained more traction than expected, not least thanks to popular soup handouts, but he is still seen as having little chance of success. He has no known political experience and had little name recognition inVenezuela prior to running. 
Source: Reuters