Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, CNE, will oversee on Sunday preparations for the election of representatives to the National Constituent Assembly, an initiative from President Nicolas Maduro intended to further develop the country's democracy and help ease ongoing tensions with the opposition.
Venezuela's Constituent Assembly
The CNE is slated to provide instruction on voting protocol and test election technology at 496 polling stations ahead of the official event, which will take place on July 30. On that date, 545 members will be chosen in direct and secret elections that will determine who will sit on the body that will draft a new constitutional text, which will later be put to a popular vote.
Maduro and other officials have called this process the “Constituent for Peace,” emphasizing that it presents an opportunity to curb ongoing violent protests in the country, which have claimed at least 94 lives.
Opposition lawmakers and protest leaders, however, have promised to block roads in different parts of the country from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m while intensifying anti-government street protests.
“It is being considered ‘zero hour,’ when we will definitely paralyze Venezuela,” opposition lawmaker Juan Requesens told Entorno Inteligente.
“What is coming is a very strong agenda of protests … a hike in street actions such as a strike, marches and closing streets indefinitely.”
The right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable said it will support protests intended to bring voting activities in the country to halt. On social media, the opposition has been calling for a three-day, complete shutdown of the country from Monday.
Paradoxically, opposition leaders are asking Venezuelans to vote in their own upcoming plebiscite on Sunday, which the CNE regards as illegitimate and non-binding.
Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, which is currently in contempt of the law, called for the July 16 plebiscite to consult Venezuelans on three questions: whether they want a constituent assembly or not; whether they want the Armed Forces to support the existing constitution and the decisions of the National Assembly; and whether they want immediate general elections.
Other opposition leaders have described this unconstitutional plebiscite as an opportunity to prepare the ground for paralyizing the country.
In another intervention into Venezuelan affairs, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, has issued a statement encouraging Venezuelans to vote in the opposition's plebiscite on Sunday, and supporting the opposition-controlled National Assembly as "the last legitimate power elected by the Venezuelan people."
The CNE warned that the plebiscite called by the opposition could lead to legal repercussions for those who promote it.