(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s congress approved a new electoral board Thursday dominated by senior figures from the socialist regime, including two who are sanctioned by the US Treasury.
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The appointments include former comptroller Elvis Amoroso, a close ally of President Nicolás Maduro. Amoroso was responsible for barring key opposition leaders from running, including their front-runner María Corina Machado.
Other appointments include two little-known opposition figures, Juan Carlos Delpino and Aimé Nogal, who may struggle to stand up to government pressure ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
However, many in the opposition had feared worse, and had expected to be stripped of one of their two seats on the five-member board.
The government is under pressure to hold fair presidential elections next year, with the US offering to temporarily lift crippling economic sanctions in exchange. Maduro is widely expected to run for a third six-year term next year.
Maduro needs the new board to run elections to a standard that could legitimize him internationally after years of economic restrictions and being ostracized by world leaders. He has yet to set a date for the vote or invite international observers.
A credible electoral board is also key to getting Venezuelans to vote after a decade of elections marred by accusations of fraud and government meddling.
Read more: Venezuela and US in Talks Over Possible Easing of Sanctions
The presence of the government loyalists on the board shows that the government “must use whatever institutional tools they have” to ensure success in the vote, said Caracas-based political analyst Ana Milagros Parra.
As well as Amoroso, the new board contains two other government figures: former National Assembly secretary Rosalba Gil, and Carlos Quintero, who has previously served on the electoral authority.
Amoroso and Quintero were put on a list of Venezuelan officials sanctioned by the US in 2017 for “undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs in Venezuela.”
The sanctions mean that any assets they have in the US are frozen, and US citizens are “generally prohibited from dealing with them”.
The Maduro government is currently engaged in direct, preliminary talks with the US to discuss about the possibility to ease some or all sanctions in unison in exchange for guarantees for a free and fair presidential election in 2024.
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