Venezuela: Maduro ready to stand in early presidential poll

EU heaps sanctions on Venezuela as isolation grows

Announcing the presidential poll would be held by the end of April, the pro-government Constituent Assembly superbody legislature said another election in Venezuela was further evidence of its democratic credentials despite a recent raft of worldwide sanctions.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and Nestor Reverol, general commander of the Venezuelan National Guard, at Maduro's annual report of the state of the nation, at the National Assembly in Caracas, January 15, 2016.

The ANC has since approved his proposal.

"If the world wants to apply sanctions, we will apply elections". Yet some of its most popular leaders - including Leopoldo López, Henrique Capriles, and Antonio Ledezma - have been, respectively, imprisoned, banned from running for office, and forced into exile.

It is the closest that Maduro - who assumed power in April 2013 after Chavez died in office from cancer - has come to declaring his candidacy outright.

Cabello said the National Electoral Council (CNE) would set an exact date for the elections, which he said would be "before April 30".

After the announcement, the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, assured that if the people and the socialist movements decide on it, he will place his candidacy in the presidential elections in their hands.

"The constituent agrees to convene for first quarter of 2018 presidential election process", said Deputy Diosdado Cabello, number two of ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, reading decree in National Assembly constituent, a plenipotentiary organ not recognized by opposition and by numerous governments for having been formed without a previous approval referendum, as indicated by country's constitution.

Nicolas Maduro expected to run again as constituent assembly votes unanimously to fast-track elections. The opposition plans to hold primaries to choose a candidate, but the hasty presidential vote may make that tricky.

"Despite the obstacles to the opposition right now, it's to their advantage to get behind a single candidate and encourage people to vote, even though the deck is stacked against them", he said. The group also called on Venezuela to release political prisoners.

The name of Lorenzo Mendoza, billionaire head of private food company Polar, is on many people's lips, and he has done well in at least one public opinion poll.

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