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24 January 2018, 11:29 | Tara Lloyd
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores
"I'm at your service", Maduro, 55, told reporters before addressing a rally in Caracas.Maduro, who has yet to formally be nominated by the party, was speaking hours after the ruling Constituent Assembly voted to bring forward presidential elections to the first quarter of 2018, from the end of the year.
"I'm a humble worker and ready to be a candidate if that's what the social and political forces of the Bolivarian revolution decide", said Diosdado Cabello, one of the sanctioned officials and vice-president of the assembly.
However, Maduro has led Venezuela into its worst economic crisis in modern history.
Although polls show Venezuelans overwhelmingly blame Maduro for widespread food shortages and triple-digit inflation that has pulverized wages, the opposition was left rudderless as several prominent politicians were barred from office or forced into exile previous year following a deadly protest movement seeking the president's removal.
A coalition that includes more than a dozen Latin American countries has rejected a decision by Venezuela's ruling party to call for elections early in the year.
"The government and its leaders annoy the majority of Venezuelans", he tweeted, urging the opposition to "unite to save democracy".
The opposition argues that the electoral playing field is skewed in the government's favor.
Maduro announced on December 10, 2017 that the country's main opposition parties would be banned from taking part in the elections. The National Electoral Council is stacked with Maduro allies while the government controls much of the media and far outspends the opposition during campaigns.
The opposition must now scramble to overcome its divisions and rally around a single candidate.
"Today, tomorrow, in the past, the only great truth is that this government and its leadership is abhorred by the vast majority of Venezuelans", former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles wrote on Twitter.
Javier Corrales, a Venezuela expert at Amherst College, insisted that the opposition still had a chance. "But I don't think that is unimaginable".
The EU said they "are involved in the non-respect of democratic principles or the rule of law as well as in the violation of human rights".
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