On Monday, October 23rd, Venezuela’s opposition parties marked a historic moment by holding their first primary in over a decade. This event, crucial in shaping the country’s political future, was aimed at selecting a unifying candidate to challenge President Nicolas Maduro in the 2024 presidential election. Maria Corina Machado, a formidable figure in Venezuelan politics, emerged as the frontrunner, claiming a landslide victory.
Machado, a 56-year-old industrial engineer and former lawmaker, is known for her staunch opposition to Venezuela’s leftist government and her advocacy for a free-market economy. Despite being barred from holding public office for 15 years since June 2023 due to her support for United States sanctions against Maduro’s government and backing former opposition leader Juan Guaido, Machado has remained undeterred in her political pursuits.
With over 26 percent of ballots counted, Machado received an overwhelming 93 percent of the vote, according to the primary’s organizing commission. Her nearest rival, Carlos Prosperi, trailed significantly with 4.75 percent. Machado’s victory is seen as a mandate from the opposition supporters, who are yearning for a change in the country’s leadership.
The primary was conducted without state assistance, as the National Electoral Council delayed responding to requests for logistical help. This led to the use of paper ballots in voting centers across homes, churches, private schools, and other facilities. The process, however, faced challenges, including a server blockage that delayed the vote count.
The primary’s significance extends beyond the selection of a candidate; it represents a critical juncture for Venezuela’s opposition to rally support among voters. The country, grappling with a deep economic crisis, is at a crossroads. The opposition’s ability to present a unified front against Maduro could be pivotal in the upcoming presidential election.
Machado’s candidacy still faces legal hurdles. The Maduro government’s refusal to lift the ban on opposition candidates, including Machado, casts uncertainty over her eligibility to run in the 2024 election. Despite this, Machado has expressed determination to pressure electoral authorities to allow her registration.
The United States, which recently eased sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector in response to the deal between the government and opposition parties, has insisted that Maduro’s government lift the ban on opposition candidates. The outcome of this political standoff will significantly influence the dynamics of the presidential election.
As Venezuela approaches the 2024 presidential election, the opposition’s strategy and the international community’s stance will be crucial in determining whether Maduro will face a formidable challenge or continue his reign unopposed.