Country Risk

Venezuelan government’s call for presidential elections to secure its grip on power unlikely to reduce government instability

24 January 2018
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro addresses his supporters during a rally in Caracas on 23 January 2018. Source: Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Key Points

  • The pro-government National Constituent Assembly (ANC) has announced that presidential elections will take place before 30 April 2018. Presidential elections had previously been expected between October and December 2018.
  • The government controls the National Electoral Authority, and the announcement of early presidential elections by the ANC will undermine ongoing negotiations over minimum electoral guarantees. Failure to meet the electoral conditions demanded by the opposition is likely to further undermine the country’s business environment and jeopardise the government’s ability to restructure its debt.
  • The early presidential elections are unlikely to lead to regime change and will probably secure Maduro’s re-election for a further six-year term, which amid food shortages will increase protests and riots. This would erode the president’s authority and lead to more severe US sanctions, probably affecting the oil sector.


The government of President Nicolas Maduro has called for early elections in an attempt to secure re-election, leveraging its control over the electoral authority and the armed forces. Sidelining the democratic opposition is likely to lead to more severe US sanctions that will undermine Venezuela’s business environment and further complicate the government’s ability to restructure its debt.

On 23 January 2018, Diosdado Cabello, a member of the pro-government national constituent assembly (ANC) and deputy head of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela: PSUV), announced that presidential elections would be held before 30 April; incumbent president Nicolas Maduro subsequently confirmed that he would run as the PSUV’s candidate. The announcement from the ANC – which is not recognised internationally – comes during ongoing talks in the Dominican Republic between the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica: MUD) coalition and the Venezuelan government. Presidential elections had been expected to take place in the last quarter of 2018.

The MUD-government talks have principally focused on securing electoral guarantees for the presidential elections, following three electoral processes in 2016 – elections for membership of the ANC on 30 July, gubernatorial elections on 15 October, and municipal elections on 10 December – during which the MUD and the international community reported serious irregularities.

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