Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Thursday (17 September) said it would be “impossible” to delay parliamentary elections planned for 6 December, after the European Union suggested pushing back the vote to meet conditions for the bloc to send an observer mission.
The EU last week said there was not enough time left for it to send observers, at Venezuela’s invitation. Maduro is eager to win international recognition for the poll, which the domestic opposition and the United States have said will likely be rigged in favor of the ruling socialist party.
“It is impossible because there is a very clear constitutional mandate,” Maduro said in a state television address. “We want to have a good relationship with the European Union, but Washington does not let them.”
Maduro’s government two weeks ago invited the leaders of the United Nations and European Union to send observers to monitor the elections.
But ministers in the International Contact Group of EU and Latin American countries said after their video conference on Thursday that this would not be possible under current circumstances.
“ICG members concluded that conditions are not met, at the moment, for a transparent, inclusive, free and fair electoral process,” the group said in a statement after the conference chaired by EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell.
The ICG groups European countries like Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Italy with a number of Latin American countries. Argentina is back in the group while Bolivia has left it.
The group called on Venezuela to respect the democratically elected National Assembly, return control of political parties to their rightful administrators, end the disqualification and prosecution of political leaders, restore candidates’ rights to equal political participation, fully update the voter register, and allow full access to all media.
Relations between Caracas and Washington have deteriorated in recent years. The US government has sanctioned Venezuela’s state oil company to pressure Maduro – who it said is a dictator usurping power that rigged his 2018 re-election – to resign.
Maduro has said the administration of US President Donald Trump is seeking to oust him in a coup to seize control of the OPEC member’s large crude oil reserves.
The United States has already said it will not contribute to “legitimizing yet another electoral fraud” in Venezuela after Maduro’s government invited the UN and the EU to monitor the elections.
Brazil called Thursday on the international community not to support the vote.
In January 2019, National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido challenged Maduro’s authority by declaring himself acting president, claiming Maduro had been reelected in 2018 in a rigged vote.
Guaido quickly received the backing of more than 50 countries including the United States.
Maduro’s government has systematically ignored the legislature’s rulings since an opposition coalition won control of the body in late 2015.
Venezuela’s constitution requires a new vote to be held every five years. Most mainstream opposition parties have vowed to boycott the election, arguing the Maduro-friendly Supreme Court has appointed loyalists to the electoral regulator and installed shadow allies to lead top opposition parties.