Venezuela's presidential candidates have agreed to delay the slated April 22 elections until May 20, it has been announced, a move welcomed by President Nicolas Maduro.
Campaign chiefs Luis Romero for Henri Falcon, and Jorge Rodriguez for President Maduro, signed the agreement guaranteeing that all parties would also respect the results of the rescheduled elections.
Maduro posted his support for the new agreement on social media, saying through his Facebook page on Thursday that democracy and the political rights of voters could only be guaranteed by way of the ballot box.
"I want to go to a process of reconciliation with all Venezuelans... I feel very happy and satisfied with the agreement signed today with the opposition," Maduro wrote.
Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez told Reuters that Thursday's agreement with Falcon's Progressive Advance party, and some other movements, was evidence of a reconciliatory spirit that undercut foreign criticism of autocratic rule in Venezuela.
"Venezuela is a model democracy for the whole world," Rodriguez told reporters at the election board headquarters.
Meanwhile Romero, who leads Falcon's party, said the only way to bring about change was via the polls, and not through protests similar to those that killed nearly 130 people last year.
"Venezuelans want to get rid of Maduro, but not by killing each other in the streets," he said, also speaking at the election board in downtown Caracas.
Romero and Rodriguez attended a press conference Thursday at the National Election Council, or CNE, where its chief Tibisay Lucena announced the agreement and said a date would be set as part of upcoming discussions between the government and opposition parties.
"We invite all organizations with political ends to participate in a dialogue of electoral guarantees," Lucena told reporters at her council’s headquarters as the two representatives signed the agreement.
The agreement also establishes that the elections of the members of state legislative councils and of the municipal councils will also take place at the same time as the presidential election, on May 20.
After the agreement was signed, Lucena said the parties "celebrate the signing of an electoral guarantee agreement with the participation of the political parties, who commit themselves before the country to carry out the electoral process with greater tranquility and transparency."
The president said that "this agreement ratifies the dialogue in the Dominican Republic and gives way to choosing our leaders and representatives with the broadest electoral guarantees because the CNE is committed and has complied with these agreements."
Six people have registered as candidates for the presidential elections: current President Nicolas Maduro, Falcon, Reinaldo Quijada, Francisco Visconti, Luis Alejandro Ratti, and the evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci.