By Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas

CARACAS (Reuters) -Venezuela will hold its presidential election on July 28, the head of the national electoral council said on Tuesday, though uncertainty remains over who will be the opposition coalition’s candidate with President Nicolas Maduro expected to seek another term.

The country’s Supreme Court in January upheld a ban on holding public office imposed by the country’s controller general against Maria Corina Machado, who overwhelmingly won an October opposition primary to determine its presidential candidate.

The ban prompted a reinstatement by the United States of some sanctions against the OPEC member nation after months of nascent rapprochement between the two. The United States has said oil sanctions roll-backs that it carried out last year will expire in April unless Machado is allowed to run.

Machado, a 56-year-old industrial engineer, has rejected the possibility of a substitute candidate, saying her ban is contrived by Maduro’s government to protect him from a viable challenger. The ban was upheld at a time when Maduro has faced declining support among his socialist party’s traditional base.

A March 25 deadline for candidate registration may force the opposition’s hand. Machado’s campaign said she was in the country’s Andean region and it offered no immediate comment after the election date was announced.

Maduro’s re-election to a six-year term during the last presidential vote in 2018 has been criticized by the opposition, the United States and others as fraudulent.

Government-allied lawmakers, opposition groups and others last week proposed a variety of dates, ranging from April to December.

The electoral council “evaluated the different proposals for a schedule that contemplates all the constitutional, legal and technical requirements,” its head Elvis Amoroso said, reading from a statement.

July 28 is the birthday of late President Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s mentor and predecessor, who died in 2013. Tuesday was the 11th anniversary of Chavez’s death.

The government and the opposition agreed in an October electoral deal that the vote would take place in the second half of 2024, that international observers would oversee it and that each side would choose its candidate. Some opposition figures expressed doubts at the time that Maduro would uphold the deal.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas;Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Will Dunham)

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