(Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro is convinced he can win July’s presidential elections without resorting to fraud. 

But, if he’s wrong, he also has backup plans to cling on to power, according to people who are in contact with the administration, who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive political strategy.  

He would prefer to win the conventional way, by getting more votes than his opponent, since international legitimacy would open the door to trade and investment. 

But polls show the president trailing far behind opposition candidate Edmundo González ahead of the July 28 vote. So, despite Maduro’s confidence, his administration is studying other options if he seems destined to lose, according to the people. 

These include disqualifying González or eliminating the opposition coalition’s voting card. There’s also a possibility that Maduro could suspend the election or alter the results, according to the people. 

In reply to written questions, Venezuela’s Information Ministry said the idea that Maduro had plans to cheat were unfounded speculation. Maduro’s campaign coordinator, Jorge Rodríguez, didn’t reply to requests for comment.

For now, Maduro likes his chances without resorting to those measures, the people said. That’s one of the reasons why his government has so far allowed González to remain in the race after other contenders were prevented from running. 

Maduro has invited independent election monitors to be present for the vote, so that the result is indisputable. None has confirmed so far. 

“We are going to prepare to beat them with votes on July 28,” Maduro, 61, said on Thursday. 

Arrest Warrants

The administration will decide how to proceed in the coming weeks, two of the people said. It remains unclear if the government will allow another replacement if it takes action against his main rival. 

González, 74, is a stand-in for María Corina Machado, the opposition’s most popular figure, who was barred from running, while 15 arrest warrants were issued against her aides and allies.

About 45.9% of 1,200 people surveyed by More Consulting in early April said they would vote for any candidate supported by Machado, compared with 21.6% for Maduro. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. 

But Maduro’s government doesn’t believe that Machado’s followers will automatically back González, a little-known former diplomat, with the same fervor. 

The president could also benefit from an outdated voter registry. Millions of Venezuelans who left the country, and would be likely to vote for change, may be unable to cast a ballot. 

According to the electoral authority’s preliminary numbers, more than 21 million Venezuelans are eligible to vote. However, according to independent groups, as many as 4.5 million are abroad, and were unable to register or update their data ahead of the April 16 deadline. 

Despite his unpopularity, Maduro has a strong base of support among government officials, the military and people who depend on government handouts.  

In addition to Maduro and González, who polls show will get most of the votes, there are eight other, little-known candidates participating.

In an interview in his apartment in Caracas this week, González said he doesn’t understand why the government has allowed him to run when others were blocked.

“The silence surprises us,” he said. “So far the government has been silent on all of this. We still don’t know why.”

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