24 November 2021 — Countercurrents
The United Socialist Party (PSUV) landed a comprehensive victory in Venezuela’s regional and local elections, winning 83% of the governorships.
According to initial results from the National Electoral Council (CNE) on Sunday night, PSUV, the ruling party, secured at least 19 of the 23 governorships, and the important Caracas mayoralty.
The PSUV also successfully overturned rightwing incumbents in Mérida, Táchira and Anzoátegui states and held off fierce challenges in a number of others, including Miranda, Carabobo, Bolívar and Apure.
The ballot saw Venezuelans additionally elect 335 mayors, 253 regional legislators and 2,471 local councilors in what was the country’s twenty-seventh election since 1998.
The 42.3% turnout was twelve points higher than December’s parliamentary elections, bucking a recent downwards trend. Sunday’s vote saw a wider electoral offer than on past occasions, with 111 parties running including the US-backed hard-right which returned to the ballot on the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) ticket.
According to CNE Rector Roberto Picón, increased turnout is “the first step in reactivating politics in Venezuela and re-sewing trust in the institutions.”
Following the CNE’s initial bulletin with 91% of the votes tallied, President Nicolás Maduro addressed the nation, promising to work alongside elected opposition leaders and lauding his party’s continued hegemony. In the previous regional elections in 2017-18 the PSUV won 19 governorships.
“With this electoral victory, we will continue consolidating peace and stability in Venezuela. We will see a new prosperity and wealth generation coming from the workplace and collective efforts. The people have decided and shown us the path. The Patria has won!” he later tweeted.
For its part, opposition forces landed three governorships, with Barinas yet to be called. In the symbolically important government heartland where former president Hugo Chávez was born and raised, PSUV forces were narrowly leading but opposition candidate Freddy Superlano has claimed the voting tallies show he will win once the numbers are final.
In Zulia, the country’s most populous state, the MUD scored a strong win in the race for governor, with former governor and 2006 presidential candidate Manuel Rosales defeating incumbent PSUV governor Omar Prieto by 57 to 37%. Following his victory, Rosales, who is already being projected as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, took to Twitter telling supporters that “hope had won” in the oil-rich region. The opposition alliance also won the mayoral race in the Zulia state capital of Maracaibo. The hardline sectors likewise scored a surprise and inaugural victory in the rural and traditional government stronghold state of Cojedes.
For its part, the more moderate right Democratic Alliance landed just one victory after backing Morel Rodríguez of the recently formed Neighborhood Force. He beat the PSUV’s Dante Rivas by 43 to 39% in Nueva Esparta state. Despite strong candidates, opposition splits saw the alliance fail to make inroads in Anzoátegui, Táchira, Lara and Carabobo states, which were all won by the PSUV.
The fourth major bloc running ̶ the leftwing APR ̶ did not score any governorship but raised its vote percentages in a few states, including Portuguesa (10%).
Complete mayoral, regional legislator and local councilor results are still to be fully announced, but a more diverse political map is expected following recent electoral reforms benefiting smaller parties. With 13 of 335 mayoral races still to call, the CNE indicated that the PSUV had won 205, the MUD 59, the Democratic Alliance 37 and other unnamed parties 21.
Despite winning most of the governor races, the ruling PSUV secured only 45.7% of the vote, compared to 54.3% for anti-government forces. In addition to the three states won by the opposition, analysts have been quick to speculate that opposition splits allowed government victories in many regions. According to CNE data, a unified right may have won Apure, Barinas, Bolívar, Falcón, Guárico, Lara, Mérida, Monagas, Táchira, Trujillo and Yaracuy states, many of which are traditional Chavista strongholds. Likewise, no party won more than 50% of the vote except in Zulia (MUD), Delta Amacuro (PSUV) and Caracas (PSUV).
The voting process unfolded in a largely peaceful climate, with the only major issues coming in Zulia state.
Communist Party of Venezuela
According to a Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) press release, over 800 people were denied their right to vote in Jesús María Semprun municipality after “grave violence and vandalism” and police tear gas forced a number of voting centers to be temporarily closed. While the causes of the violence remain unclear, the PCV has pointed to the local PSUV mayor and claimed “sabotage” against their candidate, who it alleges had a “great chance of victory.” The municipal race is yet to be called by the CNE.
Elsewhere in Zulia, local media reported that one man had died in a shooting outside a voting center and, in an unrelated incident, MUD candidate Eduardo Labrador claimed to have been attacked in San Francisco municipality.
Sunday’s vote was overseen by over 300 international observers from 55 countries and a host of international organizations, including the Carter Center, United Nations, the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA) and the European Union (EU). CEELA president Nicanor Moscoso praised the process and claimed it had “consolidated Venezuela’s democratic institutions.” Other missions, including the EU, are due to present their findings on Tuesday.
International reaction to the elections has been slow.
U.S. Reject The Vote
The U.S. State Department rejected the vote as “flawed” and “grossly skewed,” claiming that the Maduro government had “deprived” the country of a free and fair election. No evidence was offered to back up the claims.
A Bloomberg report (EU, U.S. Strike Opposing Tones on Venezuela Election Fairness, Nov. 23, 2021, https://www.bloombergquint.com/politics/e-u-u-s-strike-opposing-tones-on-venezuela-election-fairness) said:
Venezuelan elections Sunday were better organized than in previous votes, a European Union observer body said.
The first E.U. mission to visit the country in 15 years said Venezuela’s electoral authority was more balanced and equipment more advanced than in past elections, while finding cases of violence, abuses of state funds and uneven conditions for candidates and voters.
The mission’s head declined to endorse the vote as fair, saying it’s not the mission’s duty to act as an electoral “rubber stamp.”
In its much-anticipated preliminary findings on the municipal elections, the European mission struck a more neutral tone than that of the U.S. government. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken slammed the vote as “flawed” by arbitrary arrests, harassment of political and civil society actors, bans on candidates and voter manipulation. President Nicolas Maduro’s “regime deprived Venezuelans yet again of their right to participate in a free and fair electoral process,” Blinken said in a statement.
Maduro’s government, facing a seven-year recession, crippled oil industry and economic sanctions, seeks an international seal of approval for Sunday’s vote as it tries to regain legitimacy lost after previous elections were deemed fraudulent. Government candidates dominated, winning the vast majority of races for governor and mayor, though the vote was marked by low turnout.
Campaigning in the run-up to the vote was largely peaceful, the main opposition parties were allowed to run and civil society organizations participated in the audit process, the E.U. report said.
On election day, the European mission saw cases of voter coercion across the country and widespread delays at polling places. They also highlighted the assault of an observer not affiliated with the E.U. and the killing of a voter in a shooting outside a polling station in Zulia state.
“There is no room for this in a democratic event,” Santos said.
The report also found “structural deficiencies” that made elections hard on the ground for opposition parties, including sanctions in years past by the judicial system, outright bans of some candidates, and the government’s use of state resources for campaigning, including its control over TV and radio coverage.
Most of the mission of 136 observers is set to remain in the country until mid-December, Santos told Bloomberg News. The group will continue to monitor vote counting as the winner in one of 23 governor races is still in dispute. It will also watch for electoral challenges that are likely to be introduced to authorities in the coming days.
Voting Conditions Better
From Bogota, a Reuters report (Venezuela voting conditions better, but some candidates blocked unfairly –EU) said:
Venezuelan regional and local elections last weekend were held under better conditions than those of previous contests, the head of a European Union’s observation mission said on Tuesday.
The Sunday vote was the first time in four years the country’s opposition has run candidates, though it suffered a resounding defeat with the ruling party winning at least 18 out of 23 governorships.
“The elections were implemented in better conditions in comparison with previous electoral processes,” Isabel Santos, the head of the mission, told journalists, while still faulting aspects of the way they were carried out.
The national electoral authority is more politically balanced than it has been in 20 years, Santos said, and balance is key to building public trust.
More than 1,000 polling places in 23 states were visited by 136 observers, Santos said, and her team will release a final report in late January or early February.
Respect Venezuelan People’s Independent Choice, Says China
Citing a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson a Xinhua report said on Nov. 23:
China calls on all sides to respect Venezuela’s democratic system and practice, respect the independent choice of its people, and play a constructive role in the political settlement of the Venezuela issue, said Tuesday.
Spokesperson Zhao Lijian made the remarks when answering a query about U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments on the local elections in Venezuela.
According to reports, local elections were held in Venezuela on Nov. 21. The National Electoral Council of Venezuela announced that 99.2 percent of the votes had been counted, showing that candidates of the ruling party won the governorship in 18 states out of 24.
Zhao said the Chinese side has been following the situation in Venezuela, and noted that the election process was stable and orderly.
Zhao said it is entirely Venezuela’s domestic affair for the government and people to conduct local elections according to their Constitution and law. “This should not be subject to wanton accusations and gross interference by external forces.”
China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, Zhao said, adding that “we believe the Venezuelan government and people are capable of properly handling their domestic affairs.”
Syria Congratulates Venezuela On Regional Elections
Syria expressed warm congratulations to Venezuela, its leadership, and people, on their regional elections, indicating that the result of the elections reaffirms the Venezuelan people’s attachment to their country’s sovereignty and rejection of foreign interference in its internal affairs.
A Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry official source told SANA in a statement on Tuesday that Syria expresses warm congratulations to the leadership and people of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on the elections entitlement and the brilliant victory achieved by the ruling Socialist Party.
The source added that the result of these elections reaffirms the Venezuelan people’s commitment to the options of the Bolivarian Revolution, on top of which are preserving the country’s sovereignty, rejecting the foreign interference in internal affairs, and enhancing the stability and development process.