Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro campaigned in the country’s deeply impoverished southern region
Venezuela is voting on Sunday in elections which the opposition says are a sham.
Voters will choose regional governors and the elected National Assembly.
The elections were meant to be held in December 2018 but were suspended by the Supreme Court.
Maduro, who has presided over Venezuela’s economic meltdown, denies there are any problems with the electoral process.
What is the context?
The vote is meant to wrap up the business of restoring democracy to Venezuela after it was suspended for three years under President Nicolas Maduro.
Maduro says that the right-wing opposition wants the country to be removed from the UN and the European Union and that the elections are essential to bring peace and prosperity to the South American nation.
But opposition candidates who had gathered signatures for re-election were disqualified by the Supreme Court.
Human rights groups say that security forces have been harassing and intimidating voters ahead of the elections and that residents in Venezuela’s most-affluent districts of Caracas have been told they will be beaten or detained if they do not vote for the Socialist Party.
The opposition say that almost 4 million people have registered to vote in the elections but it is unclear how many will actually be on the electoral roll.
What’s the background?
The 50-year-old Maduro, who was narrowly elected president in 2013, was the country’s first elected head of state of the socialist ruling party.
He has overseen five years of economic decline, with the economy in freefall and thousands taking to the streets to protest against his government.
In May 2018, the authorities suspended the elections and the National Assembly, which had become an opposition stronghold, was removed from office.
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What do the critics say?
Opposition figures including Venezuela’s popular former president Hugo Chavez have both praised and criticised Mr Maduro.
He has won his election in three consecutive elections and is unlikely to be removed any time soon.
The opposition says that the legitimacy of the elections and the National Assembly are threatened by the thousands of government loyalists who have been placed on the electoral roll.
It also says that many names on the roll are illegally imported in from other countries and aren’t up to date.
It is also not clear how many soldiers will be able to vote, with some paramilitary groups on hand in some areas.
President Maduro, who was a soldier in the army, has refused to fire his troops, some of whom are alleged to be a part of a group that is killing people.
The opposition claims it has gathered an information base from that is showing how many soldiers have gone missing.
The opposition campaign in the run-up to the elections has focused on the problem with elections, with a number of senior figures publicly calling on the president to use the vote to force himself out.
Mr Maduro says that he needs to push through his reforms in the upcoming polls to strengthen the power of the government, including in relation to control of the national oil company and finance ministry.
‘Maduro has no solution’
Image copyright AFP Image caption The ‘Chavista’ Chavez was a radical president who attracted many young people to the Socialist Party
What do the international partners say?
The US and Canada have threatened economic sanctions on Venezuela, as well as calls for elections.
France, the UK and Germany have cancelled an official summit with President Maduro, due to take place in Venezuela on 17 June.
Germany’s Angela Merkel said that the lack of a democratic solution to the political crisis in Venezuela was the result of “speculative politicking” by the leftist president.
EU foreign ministers meet on 22 May to discuss sanctions on Venezuela. The bloc has said that it will include its politics in its decisions.
What are the analysts saying?
Before his election to the presidency, Mr Maduro made Venezuela an oil exporter with the capacity to reach almost 11 million barrels a day.
That was twice the level of the second largest exporter – Russia.
Oil production has, however, collapsed due to crisis conditions in the industry.