Though polls show the opposition has majority support and his foes repeatedly call for a free and fair election as their No. 1 demand, Maduro insists they are U.S. pawns intent on sabotaging the economy and bringing him down through violence.
Most Venezuelans oppose the Constituent Assembly, which will have power to rewrite the constitution and annul the current opposition-led legislature, but Maduro is pressing on anyway for the vote in two weeks’ time. In three questions at Sunday’s event, opposition supporters voted overwhelmingly – by 98 percent – to reject the proposed new assembly, urge the military to defend the existing constitution, and support elections before Maduro’s term ends, according to academics monitoring the vote for the opposition.
Sunday’s nearly 7.2 million participation compared with 7.7 million opposition votes in the 2015 legislative elections that it won by a landslide and 7.3 million votes for the opposition in a 2013 presidential poll narrowly won by Maduro.
“The result is a remarkable show of force for Venezuela’s opposition,” New York-based Torino Capital said in a research note, noting the vote was only called two weeks previously and participation meant openly defying the government.
“We can assume that the number of people voting was less than that which would turn out to vote in a regular election..
The results seem to confirm that the opposition would easily defeat the government in any election.”
The political turmoil has taken a heavy toll on Venezuela: 95 deaths in unrest since April, thousands of injuries, hundreds of arrests, and further damage to an economy already in its fourth year of decline.