French President Emmanuel Macron condemned on Friday Venezuelan authorities’ decision to sideline the country’s opposition coalition from upcoming presidential elections.
He said that the move was an “unacceptable shift to authoritarianism.”
Late on Thursday, the Supreme Court, which is close to President Nicolas Maduro, moved to exclude the coalition from registering in the vote placed yet another obstacle ahead of the already disparate opposition.
The vote is due by April 30, however, the opposition’s most popular leaders, Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles, are already banned from standing.
The coalition condemned the move as trickery by Maduro’s administration to rig the vote in its favor.
Critics say Maduro is depriving Venezuelans of a free and fair election during an unprecedented economic implosion.
“This demonstrates the fear felt by Maduro of the people,” opposition lawmaker Stalin Gonzalez said on Thursday.
International pressure is also piling on the government. The United States said this week that the vote will “deepen, not help resolve, national tensions,” and Vice President Mike Pence called Maduro a “dictator.”
It said it will not recognize the results of Venezuela's "snap" presidential election if it is held.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the vote would be "neither free nor fair."
Thursday’s ruling said the coalition violated the principle of avoiding “double affiliation” in politics and therefore could not be validated.
Critics see that as baseless, and the opposition is discussing its next move.
“If the opposition opts to participate, it risks legitimizing (an election) process that has already been questioned by the international community,” said IHS analyst Diego Moya-Ocampos.
“However, if the opposition chooses not to contest the elections, Maduro will be enabled to straightforwardly extend his mandate for a new six-year presidential term.”
Two senior State Department officials said all economic tools are available to the US to increase the pressure on Venezuela. They added new sanctions are "always" on the table.
The officials revealed there is evidence that current sanctions are working, but they declined to provide any examples.