Venezuela Returns to the Ballot Box to Vote for State Governor
Elections in Venezuela for state governors were held this past Sunday for each of the 23 states. These elections come after months of protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s regime, in which 125 people have died. These are the first elections in Venezuela since President Maduro created a government backed monopoly and thereby consolidated his political parties power in July of this year.
It is believed that the reason behind these elections are to mitigate, in effect, the international community’s negative response to Maduro’s socialist regime. A handful of Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras Mexico, among others, gathered in Lima, Peru in August to publically declare their condemnation of the current political situation in Venezuela.
These elections also come after President Trump threatened to use military force against Venezuela, a strategy widely rejected by various Latin American countries.
To assure the Venezuelan people and the international community of the legitimacy of the democratic process in Venezuela, Maduro published a video in which he states: “We’re showing that Venezuela is a rigorous democracy, a revolutionary democracy, an exemplary democracy.”
Despite Maduro’s message and pursuit for political legitimacy, there are warning signs that the democratic process is already being interfered with. For instance, there have been various reports of technological difficulties and delays of the polling station setup. Furthermore, there have been increased restrictions on the media according to The Institute of Press and Society.
Although there are several international entities and approximately 1,240 observers set out to protect the democratic process,there is a high probability of electoral fraud since it has occurred in the past.
Luis Vicente León, head of the Venezuelan polling firm Datanálasis, tweeted “The opposition is the majority and should win regionals comfortably. However, the abstention and electoral opacity have become concrete risks”.
Not only is transparency a major factor in these elections, but so too are voter confidence and the subsequent voter turnout. Alejandro Feo la Cruz, mayor of Naguanagua and candidate for the governor of the state of Carabobo, expressed the problem surrounding voter confidence: “Our main challenge has been getting people’s hope back and channeling that energy, the spirit of struggle, using the main weapons citizens have now: voting”.
These elections, although only regional, are crucial to the future of Venezuela. Not only are the Venezuelan people voting for state governors but their votes symbolize a growing paradigm shift for greater democratic legitimacy and political pluralism in their country.
Maduro wins 17 out of the 23 governorships, winning 30 percentage points higher than anticipated. Although Maduro’s party controlled 20 governorships, losing control in three states in the elections, Maduro considers these elections a victory because the opposition was estimated to win in a landslide.
Maduro enjoyed the victory maintaining, “We have 17 governorships, 54 percent of the votes, 61 percent participation, 75 percent of the governorates, and the country has strengthened”.
The election campaign chief of the opposition party, the Democratic Unity (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática), Gerardo Blyde, rejected the results of the election stating “We do not recognize any of the results at this time. We are facing a very serious moment for the country”.
The international community is attentive to how these claims of illegitimacy will be addressed, and how the Venezuelan people will react to Maduro’s regime claiming a victory in yet another election in the midst of claims of electoral fraud.