Venezuelan President Maduro set to run for re-election in 2018

Venezuela’s pro-government Constituent Assembly has ordered fresh elections before the end of April and President Nicolas Maduro said he was ready to seek another six-year term 

Venezuela’s pro-government Constituent Assembly has ordered fresh elections before the end of April.
President Nicolas Maduro told his supports at a rally that he is ready to seek another six-year term. 

"It's the right decision. Imperialism and the right were plotting to take over the economy," said Maduro.

The unpopular leader, whom critics referred to as a dictator who has wrecked the OPEC member’s economy, said he would run if the ruling Socialist Party asked him, even as Venezuelans reel from empty shelves and the world’s fastest inflation.

The 55-year-old former bus driver and union leader, who succeeded Hugo Chavez in 2013, benefits from a formidable political machinery, a compliant national election board, and a core of support from poor Venezuelans reliant on food handouts.

The Opposition on the other hand is weakened and divided, as many of the president’s main potential challengers are in self-imposed exile or in jail.

Former Presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said the government was so unpopular that it could lose the vote.

The government and its leaders annoy the majority of Venezuelans," he tweeted, urging the opposition to "unite to save democracy".

Capriles cannot stand in the presidential vote as he was banned from public office for 15 years in April for mismanaging public funds as governor of Miranda state.

He denies any wrongdoing and says the charges were politically motivated.

Announcing the presidential poll would be held by the end of April, the pro-government Constituent Assembly superbody legislature said another election in Venezuela was further evidence of its democratic credentials despite a recent raft of international sanctions.

Maduro however said the presidential poll would go ahead "with or without the opposition".

Some fear fraud in the system. “These are not elections, it’s a military occupation with a fraudulent election board,” said hardline opposition activist Maria Corina Machado, referring to the armed forces’ major role in government and the board’s past pro-Maduro stance.

The former speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, said the decision to call an early vote was in retaliation against recent European Union sanctions against senior government officials.

He accused the government of usurping the people's legitimate power with the creation of the Constituent Assembly which effectively bypassed the National Assembly.

Maduro had blasted the European Union for imposing “grotesque” sanctions this week on seven senior Venezuelan officials, including a travel ban and an asset freeze, and took aim at Spain’s conservative prime minister.

The United States, Canada, and the European Union have all taken measures against Venezuela’s government over rights and corruption allegations, hurting the government’s image and spooking banks from working with Caracas.

Maduro believes foreign nations, and especially the United States and Spain, are leading a campaign to bring down the country's socialist government.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday she did not think it would be a good idea for Maduro to run for re-election. And a 14-member regional group that includes Canada, Mexico and Peru said an election held under the present conditions would lack legitimacy.

“We demand that presidential elections be held with adequate lead time,” the so-called Lima Group said in a joint statement, adding that all political actors and independent international observers must be allowed to take part.