Venezuela will hold legislative elections Dec. 6, election officials announced Monday after months of mounting pressure from local opposition groups and international observers. The South American country’s laws mandate that National Assembly balloting be held this year, but elections officials had delayed setting a date, raising concerns the contest would be canceled. In her announcement, elections council head Tibisay Lucena said the organization 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 date is timed to commemorate the first election of the late President Hugo Chavez, who launched the country’s socialist revolution when voters chose him overwhelmingly on Dec. 6, 1998.
The ruling socialist party currently holds a majority in the legislature, but polls indicate that if the election were held today, the opposition coalition would win in a landslide. The 29-party coalition is benefiting from widespread discontent with President Nicolas Maduro, driven by mounting shortages, high inflation and rampant crime.
Opposition parties have not captured a legislative majority since Chavez, who was Maduro’s mentor, won the presidency more than 16 years ago. They have lost every recent national election, and currently hold about a third of the seats in the legislature.
The opposition coalition held legislative primaries in May, drawing a 7 percent turnout, and the socialist party will hold primaries Sunday.