CARACAS, Venezuela – The National Electoral Council (CNE) said that President Nicolás Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 17 of 23 state governorships in Sunday’s election as parts of the divided opposition presented candidates while others abstained from the vote in protest and urged their followers to do the same.
Tibisay Lucena, the head of the CNE, announced the results late Monday evening as Maduro hailed the incident-free election as a “success that reflects the triumph of democracy and peace” in Venezuela.
Gerardo Blyde, the campaign head of the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), on the other hand, said that the results of the election are “seriously suspicious and doubtful” even before any announcements were made.
“The information that we have from our numbers of turnout and projections is different from the electoral results announced by the CNE,” Blyde said.
Lucena announced that 17 of the 23 spots for 4-year governorships were won by the PSUV amid a turnout of 61.14 percent. In bulk numbers, the PSUV won 54 percent of the vote nationwide while the MUD won 45 percent. She said that the results, whether a victory for the PSUV or the MUD, were irreversible in all the states except for Bolívar in the southeast of the country where there is still no clear winner.
Given the results, the PSUV has assumed power in 17 states while the MUD won 5; Bolívar still must wait for a definitive winner. The outcome means that the PSUV’s dominance in governorships from the previous 4-year period has decreased from 20 states to 17 states (and possibly 16 pending the outcome in Bolívar).
After the results were announced, the MUD said that they “do not recognize the outcome,” as expected. Blyde said that the government “violated the rights of the voting public” by moving voting centers and “demonstrating abusive attitudes.”
“We have asked the regional groups and authorities to verify the process, to audit everything including in the states where the MUD candidates were victorious,” Blyde said and added that the opposition is already planning “activities in the street in response to the electoral irregularities observed” by his faction.
The “electoral irregularities” and allegations of fraud made by the opposition are unfounded, however, and the faction opposing Maduro will unlikely be able to prove wrongdoing.
Indeed, the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America (CEELA) and some 70 international observers said that the elections were held “freely and successfully” and “without intimidation or incident.”
Nicanor Moscoso, the head of CEELA, said there had been several audits carried out already and there were no irregularities found when the results of the ballots were checked against the results of the electoral machines. He said that “in order to question the electoral process, one needs proof of irregularties” and that is something that his organization has not found.
“The voting stations were close to population centers, the electoral material was clear and complete and the machines functioned. At all voting stations, observers verified the presence of technicians that could fix or replace any malfunctioning machines at that moment. There was security at all voting stations and there was no observed political proselytism or party interference,” Moscoso said.
To the end that the MUD is still claiming fraud, Moscoso recommended that the opposition lay any complaints with the Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ). Lucena added that the articles 203 and 206 of the Organic Law of Electoral Processes outlined in the Constitution gives citizens the right to call for a recount and audit of votes, which has been invoked and will take place between November 1 and 4.
The reason the opposition is claiming fraud is the generally negative view the majority of Venezuelans hold toward the ruling government and the recent polls which showed a resounding victory for the opposition.
The issue for the opposition, however, is that the general sentiment among the populace did not translate into votes: a large faction of the MUD voiced their rejection of the election calling it a “farce” weeks ahead of voting day, which discouraged many of the MUD followers from voting. Other opposition politicians even directly urged supporters to boycott the vote.
Thus, the opposition’s unaligned streams expected a blowout victory and a fraud simultaneously, effectively ensuring a victory for the ruling PSUV and media time for Maduro to gloat about a win that does not reflect the sentiment of the majority of his compatriots.
Antonio Ecarri Bolívar, the second-in-command of the Democratic Action, one of the MUD’s most important political parties, lamented the lack of participation on behalf of the opposition: “In this election, there were 3 million less opposition voters that participated when compared to the parliamentary election of 2015 while the pro-government voters had a very similar turnout,” he said to Venezuelan news agency Revista SIC.