(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s top court banned the opposition candidate for governor and called a new election in a key region, potentially undermining the government’s attempt to regain international legitimacy by holding a vote seen as fair.
The National Electoral Council will repeat the gubernatorial election in the state of Barinas on Jan. 9, following a court ruling that the opposition’s Freddy Superlano was ineligible to run due to a previous ban.
Superlano had 37.6% when the counting was halted, putting him ahead of Argenis Chavez, the brother of late leader Hugo Chavez and governor since 2017. The family hails from a small town in the state, considered the birthplace of the movement that bears their name.
The decision complicates the government’s attempts to paint as free and fair the Nov. 21 regional elections that were seen as a key test for President Nicolas Maduro’s push to regain legitimacy on the international stage. A team of European Union electoral observers said the country had progressed from previous elections but pointed out biases in the system, including the judiciary.
On Tuesday, the E.U.’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell defended the mission to Venezuela as the right choice. His comments came in response to Maduro, who claimed the E.U. observers were spying on the country and that the electoral process was “impeccable.”
Barinas has turned increasingly tense over the past week as Superlano supporters protested the process. The government, in turn, sent troops to the capital city, Barinas.
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