Venezuelans began casting ballots Sunday in an election expected to give a frustrated opposition control of congress and the chance to roll back the power of a socialist government whose economic policies have led to long food lines and a collapsing currency.
Voters in pro-government districts nationwide were wakened before dawn by fireworks—a reminder by President Nicolás Maduro’s populist government that it was time to get to polling stations and cast ballots for the self-styled revolution of his predecessor and mentor, the late Hugo Chávez.
The election of the 167-member National Assembly is seen as a plebiscite on Mr. Maduro’s rule of a country that has the world’s highest rate of inflation, topping 200% year-to-year, and an economy the International Monetary Fund says will contract 10% this year.
Stringent currency controls, with only the state permitted to sell dollars, has resulted in shortages of everything from basic food items to shampoo to car parts, leading factories to drastically cut output and an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans to tell pollsters that the country is headed in the wrong direction.
In a barrio not far from the presidential palace in Caracas, voters like Norka Teresa Heredia reeled off complaints about the government, from rampant crime to corruption scandals to long food lines.
“We cannot find coffee, rice, sugar, toilet paper, sanitary napkins, spaghetti,” she said.
Standing nearby was Josefina Villalba, 75 years old, who said she also planned to vote for the opposition alliance known as MUD.
“We want Venezuela to be free from this yoke. It is not Communism, it is savagery. It is thievery. It is not the Venezuela we had before.”
A varied group of pollsters have said the opposition could win anywhere from a simple majority—84 seats or just a few more—to as many as 110.