It was only a few days ago that I was writing about the startling about-face maneuver suggested by Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro. After more than a year of stonewalling and insisting that he didn’t need to run for another term as President, the tyrant suddenly suggested that he might be open to new elections, perhaps even sooner than they would normally be scheduled. At the time I expressed the following concern.

[W]hen you control the Board of Elections and stock it with your own supporters who will be “counting” and certifying the votes, as well as the militias who will “supervise” the comings and goings at the polls, it’s really not that much of a challenge at all. That’s the primary worry of the opposition parties in the country and international election observers. If there’s one thing worse than Maduro simply refusing to hold an election and staying in place as a dictator it’s the prospect of him holding a sham election to tamp down complaints about his regime. Such a move would lend a false air of legitimacy to his presidency and further muddy the waters.

In a typical case of hating it when you turn out to be right, NPR reports that the elections will indeed proceed rapidly, taking place in April. But even beyond the rigging scenarios I set forth above, Maduro has obviously gone one step further. He controls all the seats on the country’s supreme court, and his flunkies just declared that candidates from the opposition parties won’t even be able to run.

Venezuela’s pro-government Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the main opposition coalition won’t be allowed to register for the presidential election, a decision that is fueling accusations of election rigging even before people head to the polls.

The ruling follows the government’s decision, under President Nicolas Maduro and the socialist party, to hold early elections, before April 30.

The nation’s most popular anti-Maduro leaders, such as Leopoldo Lopez, leader of the Popular Will party, and Henrique Capriles, head of the Justice First party, who were both previously excluded from the election are now scrambling to figure out their response, according to Reuters.

One of the most popular figures expected (or at least hoped) to run against Maduro is Leopoldo Lopez, who we’ve written about here before. Unfortunately for the opposition parties, he’s been in Maduro’s sights for some time now and has spent the majority of his time bouncing back and forth between federal prison and home arrest. Still, supporters had been aiming to hold a primary for opposition candidates anyway, and if someone could have been found who would draw the endorsement of both Lopez and Justice First party leader Henrique Capriles, they likely would have made for a powerful challenge to Maduro in any sort of fair election.

It looks as if Maduro anticipated that possibility and once again used the supreme court to squash any meaningful choice for the voters. Locking out both of the major opposition parties means that Maduro could run effectively unopposed or, at most, against some weak candidate who is actually under the dictator’s control. Should we be surprised at this suppression of any opposition to the tyrant’s regime and corruption in the electoral process? Ed already answered that one on Twitter yesterday.

Clever, but for the people of Venezuela this is no laughing matter at all. They remain in constant danger of starvation or death from wholly preventable medical issues due to a lack of doctors and supplies. Much like a giant star running out of fuel and collapsing into a black hole, the once prosperous nation of Venezuela has buckled under the weight of socialism and fallen under the rule of an oppressive dictator.