Campaigning began in Venezuela on November 13 ahead of crucial National Assembly elections next month.
The vote will see the socialists supporting the Bolivarian Revolution, backed by President Nicolas Maduro, against the right-wing US-funded opposition amid ongoing tensions and economic problems.
From November 13 through to December 3, candidates from the ruling and opposition coalitions will be allowed to canvass for votes by public appearances, leaflets and on regional and national media.
Venezuelans will go to the ballot boxes on December 6, during a particularly trying time for Maduro's government. An economic war launched by opposition forces has produced the domino effects of smuggling, hoarding and ultimately shortages of some food and basics like toilet paper.
Soaring inflation and rock-bottom oil prices have also taken their toll on the Venezuelan economy.
Venezuelan officials say the results will have a profound effect on the future of the country. It will affect whether the government will be able to continue with its social programs promoting public housing, health and education, or if the opposition will block or even reverse much of what has been achieved since former President Hugo Chavez's election in 1999.
“The National Assembly is vital to guaranteeing the power of the people,” Assembly member Blanca Eekhout told TeleSUR. “That's what's at stake in these elections — it's a situation where we have to keep the peace and unity. Peace will win.”
About 19 million Venezuelans are registered to vote for 167 seats. A two-thirds majority in the assembly can create new laws and grant the president limited decree powers. The ruling socialist PSUV currently has 99 seats, while right-wing opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable has 63.
Grassroots supporters of the government coalition began their campaign early in the morning of November 13 with rallies and marches. The Venezuelan government said the right-wing politicians have promoted a campaign of destabilisation with the intention of generating chaos during the electoral process to be able to claim that fraud has taken place.
However, the Venezuelan electoral system has won international praise for its efficiency and transparency - the fully automated system can be audited at any point.
[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]