On Sunday, Venezuela’s opposition parties held their first primary in 11 years to select a candidate for the 2024 presidential election against current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Here’s everything we know about the Venezuelan opposition primaries and why they matter.

What happened in the primary election?

Opposition politicians held the primary without government support after the National Electoral Council took months to respond to a request for logistical help. Venezuelans voted using paper ballots instead of electronic devices at voting centers in private homes, churches, private schools and other facilities.

A survey by Venezuela-based research firm Delphos earlier this month found that more than half of people deemed likely to vote did not know where to vote.

What’s at stake?

Last week, the Venezuelan government and an opposition faction formally agreed to work together to achieve a set of basic conditions for the next presidential election. The government and opposition said in a joint agreement that each side could choose its candidate according to its own internal rules.

The primary could be a chance for the opposition to win support from voters in Venezuela, whose economy has been in deep crisis for years.

What is a banned candidate?

Officials found guilty of corruption are barred from holding public office for up to 15 years.

Venezuela’s opposition claims the government is illegally using bans to stop them from taking part in elections.

Two of the original 13 registered candidates for the primary dropped out because they were barred from holding public office.

Who is Maria Corina Machado?

Maria Corina Machado is an opposition member of the Venezuelan National Assembly, a free market advocate and opponent of Venezuela’s left-wing government.

Although 56-year-old Machado is barred from holding public office, he has decided to stay in the race.

The industrial engineer and former legislator has been banned for 15 years since June. This is due to their support of US sanctions against the Maduro government and their support of former opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

Did anyone win the primary?

While final results are pending, Machado is leading the polls with 93 percent of the vote, with over 26 percent of ballot boxes counted.

The counting – delayed due to a server blockage – was expected to continue on Monday. It was unclear when the next results update would come.

Machado’s nearest rival, former representative and Democratic candidate Carlos Prosperi, received 4.75 percent of the vote. Machado has claimed victory and said she is tasked with taking on Maduro.

How does the relationship between Venezuela and the US shape this vote?

In response to the agreement between the government and opposition parties for the 2024 elections, the US eased sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector. These sanctions were particularly tightened in 2019 under former US President Donald Trump.

The US has insisted that Maduro’s government lift the ban on opposition candidates taking part in the 2024 elections. So far, Maduro has refused to give in.

What happens if Machado wins the election?

It’s unclear what would happen if a disqualified candidate wins the primary.

However, Machado has said that if she wins the primary, she can pressure the Electoral Council to register for the general election.

Meanwhile, Reuters quoted an anonymous senior US State Department official threatening to lift sanctions easing measures unless Maduro lifts bans on opposition candidates voting.

Alternatively, if Machado is unable to register for the general election, another opposition candidate could fight in her place. Several candidates said there was no unified decision on what to do and it was unclear whether the opposition would put forward a candidate after Machado’s election.

Will Maduro finally be challenged?

According to the US think tank Atlantic Council, the opposition has the opportunity to unbalance Maduro “with the help of the United States and the international community.” The opposition has the chance to mobilize voters who are fed up with the gridlock in current politics.

“What Maduro fears most, more than any other political opponent, is a disciplined opposition that is popular, organized and ready to mobilize its base in 2024,” the Atlantic Council report added.

However, if Machado does not register for the parliamentary elections, the odds could be in Maduro’s favor. “A fragmented opposition with lower voter turnout could allow Maduro to win plurality,” said a report from the United States Institute of Peace.

When is the presidential election?

The presidential elections will take place in the second half of 2024, the exact date has not yet been set.

Elections in Venezuela usually take place in December, but in 2018 the election was brought forward to May.

Source : www.aljazeera.com

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