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Venezuelan Opposition Announces Single-Ballot Strategy

Venezuelan opposition politician Maria Corina Machado, shown greeting supporters after a news conference in Caracas on July 15, 2015, says she's been barred from holding public office ahead of December's congressional election.

Venezuela's opposition coalition announced Wednesday that it would list candidates on a single ballot card in parliamentary elections, signaling a commitment to unity.

It appears that the December 6 election will give the opposition its best chance in years to win a legislative majority.

Opposition coalition spokesman Jesus Torrealba said late Wednesday that the 29-party coalition would pursue a single strategy and run all candidates together on the same ballot card.

Coalition leaders are counting on the dissatisfaction that sent young people into the streets in 2014 to help them win at the polls. They hope to mount a recall against President Nicolas Maduro, a member of the ruling United Sociaist Party, but interparty squabbling has sometimes handicapped that effort.

The deepest fault lines run between hard-liners who support massive street protests and frequently call on Maduro to resign, and more moderate leaders who favor a focus on gradual electoral change.

Hard-line leaders called the sometimes bloody street protests in 2014 that sought unsuccessfully to force Maduro from office. Others coalition members called the protests a bad idea.

The divisions were recently on display when some opposition leaders supported a street protest, but the coalition as a whole did not. Some opposition members also disagreed about whether to hold open primaries or pre-select election candidates. The coalition ultimately opted to pre-select most candidates but hold some primaries.

The government in recent days has disqualified several opposition candidates from holding office, without saying why. On Thursday, Torrealba said via Twitter that the moves against government critics were reason enough to fight and unify behind the coalition's candidates.

Food order rescinded

Also Thursday, Venezuelan food officials rolled back an order that would have forced private companies to distribute food staples to a network of state-run supermarkets.

A food industry group earlier this week said federal authorities ordered producers of milk, pasta, oil and other goods to supply between 30 percent and 100 percent of their products to the state stores. Manufacturers said they warned the order could cause major supply problems.

Federal officials did not explain why the initial order was voided.