Venezuelans will choose hundreds of mayors on Sunday in elections pitting candidates backed by President Nicolas Maduro against a fractured opposition still bruised by a poor showing in recent gubernatorial voting. The ballots for local leaders in 335 city halls across the oil-rich nation are the final national elections before presidential elections next year in which Maduro is expected to run. Voting takes place against a backdrop of soaring inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and charges that Maduro’s government has undermined Venezuela’s democracy by imprisoning dissidents and usurping the powers of the opposition-controlled Congress. The economic and political crises have caused the socialist president’s popularity to plunge but the opposition has largely been unable to take advantage.
Three of the four biggest opposition parties are boycotting Sunday’s mayoral races, crying foul after steep losses in elections of the country’s governors in October.
The opposition had hoped to ride Maduro’s unpopularity to gains but instead suffered a setback when its candidates won just five of 23 gubernatorial races. Opposition leaders said government tampering slanted the outcomes.
The anti-government coalition’s divide widened when four of its winning candidates took their oath before the pro-government constitutional assembly