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Leading Venezuelan party to boycott election

The decision of the Popular Will party to boycott April's election underscores divisions within the opposition. The opposition alliance is yet to decide on an election strategy.

A top Venezuelan opposition party announced on Friday it would boycott April's presidential vote, showing divides within the opposition coalition.

Popular Will, the third largest opposition party, said it would "not nominate or endorse any candidate" in the April 22 presidential election that it says amounts to a "fraud."

Read more: Defiant President Madiuro vows to attend Summit of the Americas

"Those who register in these conditions are doing the dictatorship a favor," said the party led by Leopoldo Lopez (above). He is under house arrest on allegations of inciting violence in 2014 protests.

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Venezuela's opposition is huddled around the Democratic Unity Round Table (MUD), an alliance of some 20 parties opposed to Socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

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Henrique Capriles, a two-time presidential candidate of the Justice First party, is also barred from office over allegations he misused state funds. He is widely viewed as the opposition figure most likely to be able to defeat Maduro.

Opposition undecided

MUD is debating whether to participate in April's election, which was controversially pushed forward from later this year. 

Popular Will's announcement signals the perennially divided opposition may not be able to rally around a single candidate or agree on participating.

Henry Ramos, head of the Democratic Action party, said he favors the MUD supporting a single candidate to compete against Maduro.

 "If the elections are free the government will lose, and if they are not free they'll lose because they aren't legitimate," he said in a locally televised interview.

Maduro has about a 20-percent approval rating in the oil-rich country plagued by hyperinflation and economic meltdown.

A split opposition either partially boycotting the election or fielding multiple candidates would have been a boost for Maduro, who has consolidated power by creating of a new legislative body and undermining the opposition.

Critics say Maduro will use electoral fraud and repression to win another six-year term. 

cw/ng (AP, Reuters)

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