Following President Nicolás Maduro’s 2018 electoral victory, which spurred an international outcry over allegations of fraud, the country is planning to hold its next general elections in 2024. The previous elections were boycotted by the opposition which has now changed its strategy and plans to endorse a single candidate, despite the heterogeneity of the anti-Maduro bloc, under an alliance called the Unitary Platform.
With this purpose, at least 12 opposition parties have announced that they will run for a primary election in October 2023 to choose a leader to confront Maduro in the ballots. The organisation of these elections has been entrusted to a National Primary Commission, headed by Dr. Jesús María Casal, Dean of the Faculty of Law of the Andrés Bello Catholic University, and other prominent members of Venezuelan civil society.
The main pre-candidates for these primary elections and their political parties are: Carlos Prosperi (Acción Democrática); Henrique Capriles (Primero Justicia); Juan Guaidó (Voluntad Popular) and María Corina Machado (Vente Venezuela). The candidacy of comedian Benjamín Rausseo, known as El Conde del Guácharo, is being promoted with much media impact, but it is not clear if he will participate in the primaries or whether he will launch his candidacy outside the Unitary Platform. Early polls have Benjamín Rausseo and María Corina Machado as the front-runners.
At present, it seems that Henrique Capriles may be disqualified from running, if this is the case, analysts believe that Acción Democrática and Primero Justicia may turn their support to the Governor of Zulia and leader of Un Nuevo Tiempo, Manuel Rosales, in the primaries.
Another complication may arise if Machado is victorious explained a political analyst in Caracas, “A victory by María Corina Machado in the primaries could trigger a serious problem for the Unitary Platform as she has very bad relations with Acción Democrática, Primero Justicia, and Un Nuevo Tiempo. It is hard to imagine that these parties would support Machado’s presidential candidacy in 2024.”
“A victory by María Corina Machado in the primaries could trigger a serious problem for the Unitary Platform as she has very bad relations with Acción Democrática, Primero Justicia, and Un Nuevo Tiempo.”
Political analyst, Venezuela
This new opposition alliance comes at a turbulent time for the opposition, after the ousting of Juan Guaidó as head of the National Assembly, a position through which, in 2019, he proclaimed himself legitimate head of the government. Despite gaining the recognition of more than 60 countries, Guaidó’s efforts to unseat Maduro proved fruitless and he eventually lost support at home and abroad, cementing Maduro’s position.
The opposition is also embroiled in an internal feud over the potential monitoring role of the National Electoral Council (“CNE”) in the primary election. Widely perceived as a tool of the regime, many opposition parties reject its participation in the process.
In parallel, Maduro is enjoying a new lease of life from the international community after the US loosened its oil sanctions on Venezuela, and new left-wing governments in Brazil and Colombia granted the Caracas regime a new chance for dialogue. These opportunities are not being reflected domestically where Maduro’s popularity is low and he has rejected to engage in talks to discuss potential political reforms, voter rolls, and more freedom of expression. Thus, political liberalisation seems very remote despite the US threats to strengthen sanctions if there is no progress in reforms.
“Maduro running with such low popularity means he is betting that the conflicts in the Unitary Platform and the disqualifications affecting some of his most important candidates will allow him to repeat the 2018 scenario …”
Political analyst, Venezuela
Maduro appears to be the clear frontrunner for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (“PSUV”) presidential candidate for the 2024 elections. While his popularity is low there appears to be no alternative candidate with popular support. A political analyst in Caracas explained, “Maduro running with such low popularity means he is betting that the conflicts in the Unitary Platform and the disqualifications affecting some of his most important candidates will allow him to repeat the 2018 scenario, i.e. elections with a very high abstention rate in which the government apparatus he controls will allow him to prevail despite his low popularity.”