Venezuela’s right-wing parties elected, in primary elections held this Sunday (22), the ultraliberal candidate Maria Corina Machado to run in the presidential elections that should take place in the second half of 2024. The objective of the electoral consultation was to define a unified candidate among several opposition parties to the left-wing government of Nicolás Maduro.

However, despite winning the consultation, Machado is far from unanimous among the opposition, and the unity propagated by some sectors of the right must be threatened. The Democratic Action party candidate, Carlos Prosperi, refused to recognize the results and denounced flaws in the voting process.

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Confusions involving voting locations and the absence of materials with ballots and ballot boxes were reported before and during the process. The absence of adequate structures resulted from the opposition’s refusal to accept technical support from the National Electoral Council (CNE), the body responsible for holding all elections in the country.

Furthermore, it was not informed whether the process was attended by independent observers, national or international, both at the time of voting and during the counting. O Brazil in fact visited three voting centers in different regions of the capital Caracas and in none of them was it possible to see the presence of observers.

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The first partial results were only released almost ten hours after the polls closed. The commission that organizes the primaries was only able to count 26% of the ballot boxes, a figure that gave Maria Corina 93% of the votes. Until 4pm this Monday (23rd), 24 hours after the polls closed, the number of ballot boxes counted remained the same.

Daughter of one of the biggest businessmen in the metallurgical sector in Venezuela, Machado entered politics as director of an NGO that supported the 2002 coup against former president Hugo Chávez and organized recall referendums against the former president. She was a deputy elected in 2011, but impeached in 2014 after accepting a position from the Panamanian government at the Organization of American States (OAS) to denounce the alleged crimes of current Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro.

Conservative and ultra-liberal, Machado wants to reach the Presidency of Venezuela with a massive privatization program, including the state-owned oil company PDVSA. In the ideological field, the opponent says she is openly anti-communist and promises to “wipe socialism” from the country.

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‘Primaries don’t change anything’

After the results, the majority of the other nine candidates running in the primaries recognized Machado’s triumph. The opponent, in turn, thanked the support and said that the vote is “the beginning of the end, let’s go to the end”.

“Her motto is ‘until the end,'”until the end‘ and we don’t know exactly what that means, whether she wants to return to the pattern of violent protests or not”, says Ricardo Vaz. Political analyst and editor of the portal specializing in Venezuelan politics Venezuelanalysis, he states that this Sunday’s vote (22) was tailor-made to try to legitimize Machado, but which, in practice, should not change the situation.

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“I don’t see any argument that would force the suspension of the ban on Maria Corina from being a candidate, as it is a very reasonable ban if we take into account her entire trajectory. In some way, the primaries reinforce her position within the opposition camp, but does not necessarily create a way out or a viable path for her to compete in the 2024 presidential elections”, he says.

Machado has been disqualified from holding public office since 2015 and, therefore, could not run for President in 2024. She was sanctioned by the Comptroller General of the Republic for hiding income from her wealth declaration during the period in which she was deputy, accusations that she denies .

“Right now, Maria Corina feels like she has this imaginary position as the figure who represents the fight against the government. Now, what this means in practice is that it is doubt. And it will depend a lot on the other sectors of the opposition, which, it’s worth remember, they don’t fall in love with her”, he says.

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Vaz also warns of uncertainty regarding the reaction of the United States, which supports the primaries, but has not yet congratulated Machado’s victory. Recently, Washington eased some sanctions against Venezuela following an agreement between the government and opposition.

“Her objective is to be president of Venezuela and, now, she will try to have more legitimacy in the face of other sectors of the opposition. There are rumors that she may demand leadership in negotiations with the government. I think it is unlikely, but it is the type of extremism that Maria Corina always proposed”, he says.

Editing: Rodrigo Chagas


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