(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s opposition coalesced around a tentative candidate for the upcoming vote, a display of unity that could pose a threat to President Nicolás Maduro’s re-election.

Governor Manuel Rosales will withdraw his name from the July 28 ballot and back the opposition’s chosen candidate, Edmundo González, according to Omar Barboza, president of the 10-party opposition coalition known as the Unitary Platform. González, a little-known former ambassador, now will be thrust into a head-to-head race against Maduro, who’s seeking his third term amid a wave of repression against opposition figures.

Text in English of X post from VPItv, citing Barboza: “It will be a victorious campaign. Edmundo González is registered, and first thing tomorrow the parties will back him. This is great news for Venezuelan democracy. We are united.”

The surprise unanimous decision by the Venezuelan opposition comes two days after the US administration reimposed oil and gas sanctions on the country, citing broken promises by Maduro to hold free and fair elections. The Venezuelan government said it was the US who breached a political agreement signed in September in Doha. 

Yet Maduro hasn’t closed the door to continue talks with US President Joe Biden’s administration or the country’s opposition. Accepting his adversaries’ pick as an authorized candidate could be a step toward fairer elections.

It could also hurt his chances at a legitimate victory, which was almost assured by a split opposition. Maduro has 27.7% voting intention among the 13 candidates enrolled in the race, according to an April poll by Caracas-based firm More Consulting. Rosales followed Maduro with 15.9% voting intention, and González was fourth with 6.9%. 

In addition to Rosales, the unified opposition gives González another key endorsement: María Corina Machado, a candidate who won the opposition primaries in October but was banned from running in the election over allegations she sought to undermine the regime. Polls had shown she would trounce Maduro if allowed to run, and any candidate supported by her has a voting intention of more than 45%, according to the More survey.

Opposition leaders such as Henrique Capriles and Juan Guaido expressed their support for Gonzalez. “Total support for our friend Edmundo González Urrutia! A gigantic challenge lies ahead,” Capriles said in a post on X.

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