Socialist Party in power in Venezuela and its allies sweep the regional elections | Elections News
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela and his allies have won regional elections in which the opposition has participated for the first time in four years.
Sunday’s vote for the governors and mayors of the South American country, which was overseen by observers from the European Union, was widely seen as a political wind vane for a country that has seen years of economic crisis made worse by crippling international sanctions.
Maduro said the victories, which have seen his allies win 20 of 23 governorships, as well as mayoralty in the capital Caracas, “must be celebrated.”
“The victory is impressive,” he said.
The elections drew a turnout of 41.8 percent, with 8.1 out of a possible 21 million voters voting, according to the National Electoral Council (CNE).
This was especially important as it saw the return of opposition parties that had boycotted the country’s elections since 2018 amid allegations of fraud and intimidation by violent gangs loyal to Maduro.
Many of these parties reluctantly returned to the polls after a series of government concessions, including allowing EU observers, and amid frustration that a multi-year international sanctions campaign failed to dislodge Maduro of power.
Meanwhile, the EU mission is due to present a report on the elections on Tuesday.
The three governorships won by the opposition, however, include the oil-rich Zulia, the most populous region in the country whose capital Maracaibo is Venezuela’s second largest city.
In the 2017 regional elections, the ruling party won 19 governorship positions, while opposition politicians won four.
The head of the 130-member EU observation mission Isabel Santos said on Sunday the elections were going “calmly”, while the CNE said only “minor and isolated problems” had been recorded during the ballot.
Yet opposition figure Henrique Capriles accused the Maduro government of ordering some polling stations to remain open beyond 6:00 p.m. (10:00 p.m. GMT), even when there were no voters in attendance. tail.
“They’re going to put in votes that don’t exist,” he tweeted.
“Rethinking our strategy”
Sunday’s vote represents a major setback for the opposition, which hoped it would increase its visibility ahead of the presidential elections slated for 2024.
The besieged opposition was rife with disunity and the question of whether some candidates were in fact government factories meant to divide their supporters.
Tomas Guanipa, the opposition candidate for mayor of Caracas, said the results showed that “we need to rethink our strategy so far”.
“What is undeniable is that the vast majority of this country want change, and that is why we have to fight.”
The polls – and the government concession that preceded Sunday – come as Maduro has sought to establish goodwill with the international community in the hope of sanctions relief, as well as the thawing of foreign funds and the possibility to sell its oil again to several rich countries. .
The country is currently experiencing its eighth consecutive year of recession, with hyperinflation reaching nearly 3,000% in 2020.
A recent study found that three in four Venezuelans live in extreme poverty, with the economic crisis made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
Maduro’s goodwill campaign also included the launch of now-stalled talks with opposition leaders in Mexico City in September and also allowed the U.S.-based Carter Center to attend Sunday’s vote.
Yet on Saturday Maduro, who became president in 2013, said international observers lacked the power to comment on how the regional elections were conducted, saying they “must abide by the laws of Venezuela and must strictly respect the regulations of the electoral power which invited them ”.
The United States is among dozens of countries that have failed to recognize Maduro’s presidency since the controversial 2018 national election, which opposition leader Juan Guaido claimed to have won.
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Guaido called on the opposition to “unify the struggle” adding that “it is certain that Maduro is, and will continue to be, illegitimate”.