Venezuela elections: What’s next after Maduro’s re-election

President Nicolas Maduro won another six-year term, but new sanctions may bring the country to its knees, analysts say.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s re-election was met with international condemnation following polls marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging. 

After the announcement of Maduro’s election victory, a number of countries, such as Argentina, Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom characterised the vote as either unfair or illegitimate. 

In contrast, Maduro, who will now govern for another six-year term, labelled it as a “historic day”.

“Never before has a presidential candidate taken 68 percent of the popular vote,” he said. 

US President Donald Trump stepped up the financial pressure banning US citizens from purchasing any debts issued by the government, including debts of state oil company PDVSA. 

As the new sanctions kick in, Al Jazeera looks at what is next for Venezuela.  

Here is what we know so far:

May 20

  • According to the final results Maduro obtained 5.8 million votes, while his main opponent, Henri Falcon, collected a total of 1.8 million votes.

  • A total of 8.6 million Venezuelans voted, a turnout of 46.01 percent, which was lower than the projected 48 percent.

  • Venezuela’s opposition claimed a moral victory after boycotting the polls. 

May 21 

  • The international response was quick; the administration of US President Donald Trump placed tough new sanctions.

  • Trump signed an executive order imposing new penalties that bar US companies or citizens from buying debts issued by the government and state-run oil company PDVSA.  

  • “This measure is designed to stop the government of Venezuela from mortgaging the country’s future, and [to stop] officials lining their own pockets,” a senior administration official told the Financial Times.

  • Condemning Maduro’s re-election, the Lima Group (a group of 14 Latin American countries) plus Canada said the members’ diplomats in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, would return to their respective countries for consultations. 
  • Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS) did not acknowledge the results and in a video posted on his Twitter account, he said: “Yesterday was an infamous day for the democracy of the Americas … we do not recognise him as the legitimate president of Venezuela”. 

  • Russia responded, too, and said “imposing sanctions on Venezuela will not help resolve the crisis in the country, it also runs counter to international law,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Pankin told reporters.

  • In Venezuela, the opposition said it is planning to push for new presidential elections to be held by the end of 2018, National Assembly President Omar Barboza declared.

  • Henrique Capriles Radonski, leader of First Justice and former governor of Miranda state sent a letter to Venezuelans in which he said that an illegitimate regime is in place and that Venezuelans must defeat it. He asked the opposition leaders to unify forces to confront Maduro.

What’s next 

A possible transition 

  • “As a consequence of Sunday’s results, which were not surprising, the government is weaker today … it’s losing the strength that it originally had,” Ramon Pinango, a Venezuelan sociologist analyst said.

  • Hours later after the results were announced, many international actors expressed their disapproval. However, other countries recognised the process; among those were Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, Bolivia, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

  • Sanctions were also implemented, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labelled the process as “sham elections”.
  • “Somewhere in the future [we might experience] a transition of power that will have different stages. It is becoming increasingly costly for the government to stay in power,” Lobos said, adding: 

  • “There is also a question regarding the army; until now they have been completely loyal to Maduro’s presidency, but we know there have been changes. What will they do if a transition takes place?”
  • Since the beginning of the year, there have been at least 19 officers detained in Venezuela, among those are lieutenant colonels, some of whom commanded important battalions, according to local reports. 

  • “The government has two ways of moving forward, they either implement economic and social reforms and accept humanitarian help, or they could radicalise. It’s not clear, but we will see their reaction in the coming weeks,” Lobos said. 

Humanitarian crisis 

  • “It seems all estimations were fulfilled. We have a strong victory of Maduro with 68 percent of the popular vote, however, the margin of abstention is [high]. The result is legal, nobody can question this, but there is a legitimacy crisis …” Javier Buenrostro, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico said.

  • Turnout in Sunday’s vote was low compared with the 2013 presidential elections, in which more than 80 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot. Polling stations were kept open beyond its closing time at 6pm. Telesur, the state broadcaster, announced they would stay open “as long as there are people in line to cast their vote”.
  • “Economic sanctions have been imposed and I believe people are the ones to be affected the most, while the sanctions will push the economy, other crisis will start to radicalise, among those the refugee crisis, [problems with food], and the crisis in hospitals,” Buenrostro said. 

  • In Venezuela, inflation has spiralled out of control, and the economic crisis is hitting Venezuela’s public health system the hardest. In the country’s public hospitals, where treatment should be free, medicine, equipment and even food is increasingly scarce. 
  • “I suspect that this situation won’t be resolved within the country but it’s more likely to be resolved as a humanitarian crisis, and outside Venezuela with international actors,” Buenrostro added. 

Source: Al Jazeera