(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s opposition refused to seal a pact proposed by President Nicolás Maduro to force candidates to recognize the results of the July 28 presidential election, raising tensions between the parties ahead of the vote. 

Maduro endorsed on Thursday the agreement with seven little-known candidates. Opposition’s hopeful Edmundo González had indicated that he wouldn’t sign it, as the government had already violated an electoral accord by revoking an invitation to the European Union to observe the vote. A dissident from the opposition, Enrique Márquez, didn’t sign the deal either.

At the same time, the government has stepped up repression of political dissent in the days leading up to the official start of the campaign on July 4, arresting four opposition activists and journalists while barring mayors in provincial cities where González and opposition leader María Corina Machado have held rallies.

González, who’s leading Maduro by at least 20 percentage points in voter opinion polls, said the agreement was an “indication of the bias that characterizes the unequal campaign.” Still, he said that there was no reason to doubt that he would submit to the will of the people. 

Among other things, the agreement commits the signatories to compete “in a climate of peace,” so that during the electoral process and afterward “the will of the people is not ignored with acts of violence and destabilization.”

Maduro, who is said to still believe that he can beat González with just enough votes but has backup plans to hold on to power if he doesn’t, has been anticipating that the opposition is getting ready to say there has been fraud, and to protest. 

On Wednesday, the Carter Center accepted the Venezuelan electoral authority’s invitation to observe the elections. The Atlanta-based organization will deploy a technical mission June 29. In a note to clients, Barclays analysts Alejandro Arreaza and Jason Keene said this “should contribute to the transparency of the process, and could also play a critical role in containing the risk of potential manipulation.” 

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