The late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and his allies triumphed nearly every time voters went to the ballot box. But Chavez’s successor, President Nicolas Maduro, appears to have lost interest in testing the will of the people. Amid a severe economic crisis, opinion polls show that support for Maduro and for ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) politicians is collapsing. In response, electoral authorities — whom analysts claim take orders from the executive branch — have over the past year shelved or delayed elections large and small.
In October, the Maduro government abruptly cancelled a recall referendum that could have removed the president from office. Gubernatorial elections scheduled for December have been postponed. Even voting for the leadership of many labour unions, professional organizations, public university governments and neighbourhood councils has been suspended.
For Chavismo, the leftist political movement founded by Chavez and which has ruled Venezuela for the past 18 years, “elections used to be sacred when they knew they could easily win them,” said Eugenio Martínez, a Caracas journalist who specializes in electoral issues. “But as soon as elections became uncomfortable, they have tried to avoid them or to change the rules.”