Are Venezuela's elections in danger? 1:10

(CNN Spanish) -- The pre-candidate of Vente Venezuela, María Corina Machado, leads the opposition vote intention, positioning herself as the clear favorite less than 40 days before the primary elections scheduled for October 22, according to a national study conducted between July and August by the pollster ORC consultants.

But who will be the winner does not seem to be the biggest unknown of an election full of questions, including doubts about whether they can be carried out due to internal challenges and threats from power such as an investigation from the parliament of pro-government majority on the origin of the funds used for this primary election.

The process represents the opposition's strategic route to overcome differences and confront current President Nicolás Maduro with a single candidate in the presidential elections scheduled for 2024, according to the constitution, but which still have no date.

According to a survey that the firm ORC conducted between July 28 and August 5 with 1,111 structured telephone interviews, Machado is also perceived as a political leader of the opposition by 41.2% of those consulted, that is, almost four times higher percentage with respect to Henrique Capriles, representative of the Primero Justicia party. who follows with 10.2%.

When the question focuses on the intention to vote in the primaries, Machado adds 41.42%, Capriles 4.43% and Freddy Superlano, of Voluntad Popular, occupies the third position with 4.12%. On the other hand, 27.48% of respondents answered that they would not vote and 10.70% say they have not decided yet.


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One of the great dilemmas of this process is that the three options with the highest voting intention according to ORC, (Machado, Capriles and Superlano) for different reasons, were sanctioned by the Comptroller General of the Republic and disqualified from running for public office. That is, they could not register with the National Electoral Council as candidates for the presidential elections.

Henrique Capriles (Credit: Carlos Becerra/Getty Images)

The disqualifications did not constitute an obstacle for the pre-candidates to register with the National Primary Commission – an entity created by the opposition and without connection to the Government – from where they assure that these are illegal measures and that they must try to pave the way so that if a disqualified person wins, that person can finalize his registration for the presidential election. However, neither the candidates nor the commission have clarified what the route would be in that scenario.

That debate took place in the run-up to the registration of the primaries. Political scientist John Magdaleno recalls that it had been proposed that a list of three candidates be chosen in order of preferences and it was discussed whether or not the pertinence of allowing the disqualified to participate was discussed. He says that the conclusion was that "the Venezuelan authoritarian regime uses that political resource and that does not mean that the opposition has to endorse it" and secondly, that precisely the disqualified candidates are those who have the greatest capacity to mobilize the people and greater attractiveness to the electorate, something is reflected today in the polls.

However, Magdaleno clarifies that these arguments are valid as long as the mechanism of substitution of the disqualified candidates who could eventually win the primaries is resolved, but that has not yet happened and in his opinion it is not feasible that between now and the primary it will be resolved. So he believes that serious questions must be asked about whether after primary this is going to be resolved satisfactorily.

Magdaleno affirms that the situation would be communicating that nothing has been learned from recent years where effectively "the political resources used by the authoritarian regime are increasingly openly violating guarantees."

A primary in doubt, between internal and external threats

Oswaldo Ramírez, director of ORC and political consultant, told CNN that the maximum unknown in this primary process, with at least three disqualified so far, is what will happen if the triumph of one of them materializes. But in his opinion there is an even greater question and prior to October 22 and it is how far the ruling party will let Machado run, "given the intention to vote he has" because in Ramirez's opinion it is an event that, if given, would bring him legitimacy. Their perception is that, at the same time, there is an expectation, from the other side of the political sidewalk, that the primary will implode, that is, that it will not be carried out for reasons attributable to opposing factors.

Ramirez points out that several threats weigh on the primaries. In the first place, that they cannot be carried out due to internal problems, that is, within the National Primary Commission itself, either by logistical deployment or funds, among other reasons. He points out that another reason could be the internal fights within sectors of the opposition that hinder the fluidity of the work of the organism or by agreements between the parties, to try to find a formula of consensus among the actors.

On the other hand, it emphasizes that some measure could arise through the courts before appeals filed by citizens such as the presidential candidate, Luis Ratti, who has denounced that the primary is not an inclusive process.

In response, the Supreme Court of Justice could determine that there will be no elections or that the National Primary Commission is usurping functions and that it cannot carry it out or it could simply pause the process indefinitely. He does not rule out that he could designate the National Electoral Council the mission of organizing the opposition event, but in a primary controlled by the electoral power and without the participation of disqualified people.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in a file photo (Credit: Carlos Becerra/Getty Images)

Ramírez points out that the threats have not ceased, which in his opinion represents that the voter's right to vote is being curtailed. The expert goes further and refers to the intention to participate in a presidential election and assures that today it is low and that it is located close to 45%. In addition, he considers that this poses an additional challenge because in the midst of economic difficulties it has not been possible to infect the bulk of the country with the electoral environment.

The deputy and vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, warned the primary commission at a press conference on Monday that the National Assembly of the ruling majority is conducting an investigation into the financing of the opposition electoral event. He also referred to the use of the data from the electoral registry and the fact that in his opinion, although it is public information, he considers that it does not mean that its use is public because the guarantors of that information are in the CNE. It warns that anyone could file a claim for data misuse.

Cabello assures that according to his calculations the highest possible participation in the primaries with the current conditions is 7% of the electoral registry, that is, one and a half million people with which he affirms that they would be denying the right to participate to 93% of those qualified to vote.

The National Primary Commission reiterated on Tuesday in a statement that they have on October 22 with 3,010 centers and more than 5,000 polling stations with which they claim to have a presence in 331 of the 335 municipalities of the country. At the same time, he called for the enthusiastic participation of citizens in the tasks that still need to be fulfilled for October 22 for voting abroad, the organization of voting centers, polling stations and the training and selection of personnel.

The candidates have met privately on several occasions in search of agreement, but so far it has not transpired that there is a strategy to face the possible victory of a disqualified candidate or what to do if the primaries are not held. Doubts persist while the threshold of responses is reduced by the proximity of the date.

Elections in VenezuelaMaría Corina Machado