Wednesday, February 21, 2018
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Venezuela presidential election ordered by end of April

Nicolas Maduro expected to run again as constituent assembly votes unanimously to fast-track elections.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has said he is "ready to be a candidate" after the country's constituent assembly unanimously voted to hold a presidential election by the end of April.

The move on Tuesday came amid growing speculation that elections would be held in the first part of 2018, as the ruling Socialists hope to gain advantage of a deep political crisis hampering the divided opposition.

Last year, Maduro faced months of protests for presiding over a debilitating economic crisis that has seen a high inflation rate and shortages of food and other basic amenities. The rallies, however, failed to unseat him.

"The electoral process should be called in the first four months of the year 2018," Diosdado Cabello, the Socialist Party's number two, told the pro-government legislative superbody which ordered the election. 

"We won't have a problem, we only have one candidate to continue the revolution," Venezuelan media quoted him as saying. 

"If the world wants to apply sanctions, we will apply elections," added Cabello, referring to the economic measures on himself and six other senior Venezuelan officials which were introduced by the European Union on Monday. 

After the vote at the assembly, Maduro told reporters that he would stand for re-election if the Socialist Party asked him to.

Divided opposition

Venezuela's constitution dictates that a new six-year presidential term must begin in January 2019. 

It is unclear who from the fragmented opposition will stand against Maduro. Its most popular leaders are almost all sidelined from politics - jailed, in exile or barred from holding office.

Maduro announced on December 10, 2017 that the country's main opposition parties would be banned from taking part in the elections. His statement came as his party scored a landslide victory in municipal elections on the same day, winning at least 90 percent of the 335 mayoral seats. 

The local elections were boycotted by several opposition leaders. Maduro said that those who had participated in the boycott were no longer part of the political landscape and would not be able to contend in future voting. 

Paraguay's Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga said the Latin American community would not recognise any elections that come from a decision made by the constituent assembly. 

"We do not recognise the national constituency assembly. We don't recognise any decision that they are taking," Loizaga said. 

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