January 26, 2018 / 2:38 PM / a year ago

Venezuela opposition condemns action on presidential election

Juan Andres Mejia (C), lawmaker of the opposition party Popular Will (Voluntad Popular), talks to the media during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela January 26, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition leaders on Friday condemned the sidelining of their coalition from upcoming presidential elections, saying it was trickery by President Nicolas Maduro’s administration to rig the vote in its favor.

The pro-Maduro Supreme Court’s move late on Thursday to exclude the coalition from registering in the vote placed yet another obstacle ahead of the already disparate opposition.

Two of Venezuela’s biggest opposition parties, Justice First and Democratic Action, announced on Friday they would put their names forward for registration over the weekend. However, Leopoldo Lopez’s party, Popular Will, was banned this week from registering.

Lopez himself and Henrique Capriles, the opposition’s most popular leaders, are already banned from standing.

The vote is due by April 30.

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 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.”

Thursday’s ruling said the coalition violated the principle of avoiding “double affiliation” in politics and therefore could not be validated.

Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Corina Pons and Andreina Aponte; Additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Leslie Adler

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