Venezuela holds regional elections Sunday that are central to the preservation of the administration of President Nicolas Maduro and the departure of opposition candidate Henri Falcon from the race.
Mr. Falcon emerged as the only viable candidate to run against Mr. Maduro and was considered likely to beat him in the electoral process, which is heavily dominated by the ruling party and its coalition, United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
But on Sunday, Mr. Falcon’s campaign called on his supporters to avoid turning out in massive numbers in the hope of “weakening” opposition to the president, who is so unpopular that no president since the downfall of the Spanish dictatorship in the late 1930s has been re-elected amid a complete economic collapse.
After mass protests in February that swept away the assembly that the opposition had just formed, the president of the National Electoral Council effectively stopped all elections by demanding that the opposition put forward a candidate in exchange for holding a vote.
The opposition filed a motion this week to refer the matter to the United Nations Human Rights Council, but supporters of Mr. Maduro insisted that the accusation was an exercise in prevarication and were pushing for the country to move on without outside interference.
The elections for the country’s governors and state-level assemblies are taking place alongside an unofficial vote aimed at determining the consequences of international sanctions imposed on Venezuela for the electoral debacle it has endured for the past decade.
With no other possible candidates in the political field, Mr. Falcon is convinced he will lose and is reportedly considering returning to politics.