Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has ruled out holding early elections amid calls from opposition groups for him to resign.
In a TV address, Nicolas Maduro said “nobody should get obsessed with electoral processes that are not in the constitution”.
The president’s comment comes a day after the government and opposition groups agreed on a road map to resolve Venezuela’s political and economic crisis.
President Maduro’s term ends in early 2019.
The opposition blames him and his government for the dire state of Venezuela’s economy.
Image source Wikimedia
Venezuela is suffering from sky-high inflation and there are shortages of many basic goods, including medical supplies.
According to a recent poll, more than three-quarters of Venezuelans are unhappy with Nicolas Maduro’s leadership.
However, an attempt by the opposition to organize a referendum to oust Nicolas Maduro from office has stalled after the Supreme Court ruled that there had been fraud during the early stages of the process.
The move caused outrage among opposition groups which then began to call for early elections as an alternative way to remove Nicolas Maduro from his post.
Speaking on his weekly TV program on November 13, Nicolas Maduro asked: “An electoral way out? Way out to where?”
Negotiators for the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) and the government met on November 11 for two days of Vatican-backed talks on how to end the political and economic crisis.
They released a joint statement in which they pledged to “live together in peace” and laid out a road map on how to defuse the situation.
While there was no mention of early elections in the joint statement, opposition lead negotiator Carlos Ocariz later announced that the MUD coalition would stay at the negotiating table only until it obtained early elections or a recall referendum.
After ruling out early elections, Nicolas Maduro mocked Carlos Ocariz’s statement saying that “it makes me very happy that the MUD will continue in the dialogue until December 2018”.
December 2018 is when the next presidential election is due to be held if no early polls are called.
The next round of talks between the opposition and the government is scheduled for December 6.
However, a number of opposition leaders have already called for protests, which had been halted as a sign of goodwill ahead of the talks, to resume.
Venezuela’s opposition leaders have staged a general strike to push for a referendum on removing President Nicolas Maduro from power.
Many stores, businesses and schools stayed closed on October 28 and public transport was quieter than usual.
However, adherence to the strike was patchy and poorer areas largely ignored it.
Nicolas Maduro, who had warned companies they risked being seized if they joined the strike, said the walkout had failed.
Speaking to crowds of supporters, the president said the oil industry had ignored the strike, as had basic industries, banks, schools and transport.
Nicolas Maduro also announced measures to offset economic hardship – mostly caused by plummeting oil prices – by promising to implement a 40% rise of the minimum wage. It was the fourth increment this year.
The move has been dismissed by analysts as insignificant when the country faces spiraling inflation.
The center-right opposition coalition is also angry over a decision to block a referendum on removing Nicolas Maduro from power in Venezuela.
The coalition won a majority in the National Assembly last December and staged huge anti-government protests earlier this week.
The mass demonstrations came after a recall referendum process – an attempt to remove Nicolas Maduro from power – was suspended.
Opposition activists had gathered about 1.8 million signatures petitioning for the referendum, 400,000 of which were validated by electoral authorities.
The process was halted last week after officials said the signature collection process had been marred by fraud.
Parliament voted on October 25 to open a trial against Nicolas Maduro, whom lawmakers accuse of violating the constitution.
The president called it a “political trial” and said anyone who violated the constitution by launching it should be jailed.
Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, is blamed by the opposition for Venezuela’s dire economic situation and widespread food shortages.
In turn, he has accused the opposition of having links to foreign states, the US in particular, and of seeking to overthrow him to “lay their hands on Venezuela’s oil riches”.
Under Venezuela’s constitution, a recall referendum can be held once a president has served half of his term in office and the requisite steps are met.
So far, the opposition has only completed the first step of the process.
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