Presidential elections are scheduled to be held in Venezuela on 20 May 2018. Considered a snap election, the original electoral date was scheduled for December 2018, pulled ahead to 22 April 2018, but then delayed for additional weeks to May 2018. Several Venezuelan NGOs such as Foro Penal Venezolano, Súmate, Voto Joven, the Venezuelan Electoral Observatory and the Citizen Electoral Network, have expressed their concern over the irregularities of the electoral schedule, including the lack of the Constituent Assembly’s competences to summon the elections, impeding participation of opposition political parties and the lack of time for standard electoral functions. Because of this, the United Nations Human Rights Council, European Union, the Organization of American States, the Lima Group and countries such as the United States and Colombia have rejected the electoral process. However, countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia have voiced their support for the announcement.
Following the death of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela faced a severe socioeconomic crisis during the presidency of his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Due to the country’s high levels of urban violence, inflation, and chronic shortages of basic goods attributed primarily to the devaluated currency price of Venezuelan bolívar and to some extent due to economic policies such as strict price controls, and civil insurrection in Venezuela culminated into the 2014–17 protests. Protests occurred over the years, with demonstrations occurring in various sizes depending on the events Venezuelans were facing during the crisis.
After facing years of crisis, the Venezuelan opposition pursued a recall referendum against President Maduro, presenting a petition to the CNE on 2 May 2016. By August 2016, the momentum to recall President Maduro appeared to be progressing, with the CNE setting a date for the second phase of collecting signatures, though it made the schedule strenuous, stretching the process into 2017 which made it impossible for the opposition to activate new presidential elections. On 21 October 2016, the CNE suspended the referendum only days before preliminary signature-gatherings were to be held. The CNE blamed alleged voter fraud as the reason for the cancellation of the referendum. International observers criticized the move, stating that CNE’s decision made Maduro look as if he were seeking to rule as a dictator. Days after the recall movement was cancelled, 1.2 million Venezuelans protested throughout the country against the move, demanding President Maduro to leave office, with Caracas protests remaining calm while protests in other states resulted in clashes between demonstrators and authorities, leaving one policeman dead, 120 injured and 147 arrested. That day the opposition gave President Maduro a deadline of 3 November 2016 to hold elections, with opposition leader Henrique Capriles stating, “Today we are giving a deadline to the government. I tell the coward who is in Miraflores … that on 3 November the Venezuelan people are coming to Caracas because we are going to Miraflores.” By 7 December 2016, dialogue halted between the two.