Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party holds primaries for…

(Adds that voting seems slow)

CARACAS, Aug 8 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party is holding a primary on Sunday to choose candidates for November’s elections for governors and mayors, an election that could see the return of opposition political parties that boycotted recent polls.

President Nicolas Maduro’s allies will be vying for the chance to be elected in 23 state and 335 city governments that have been a key part of the Socialist Party’s dominance of the country’s politics.

Sunday’s vote comes as the opposition and government prepare to start a negotiation process that is expected to start later this month in Mexico, sources told Reuters.

“Winning governorships and mayors in the November 21 mega-elections will give us greater governance in the country,” Maduro said Tuesday in a live broadcast on state television. “All the opposition knows that we will have clean and transparent elections.”

Voting seemed slow in Caracas shortly after polls opened at 7 a.m. Sunday. There were no queues at the polling stations.

The mainstream opposition boycotted presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 and 2020, arguing they were rigged in favor of Maduro’s ruling socialist party. But an opposition coalition has declared itself willing to participate in the November elections.

In May, the Socialist-held National Assembly named two opposition-linked figures to a new electoral council for the first time in years. In June, the head of the electoral council said the government would allow a coalition of the main opposition political parties to field candidates in the November elections.

The opposition is still negotiating terms of participation in November and opposition leader Juan Guaido has not said whether or not he thinks the candidates should participate.

The opposition, backed by the United States and most Western democracies, calls Maduro a dictator who clung to power through rigged elections and the persecution of opponents. Maduro, backed by Russia and China, calls Guaido a puppet of Washington seeking to oust him in a coup. (Reporting by Sarah Kinosian Editing by Alistair Bell)

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