Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling socialist party has claimed sweeping victory in the country’s first elections to include top opposition parties in nearly four years.
Maduro’s leftist ruling party won 20 of the 23 gubernatorial offices and the mayorship of the capital Caracas, the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced on Monday.
The opposition parties, ending their three-year boycott of regional elections, walked away with the remaining three posts, it added.
The voter turnout was around 41.8%, according to an initial announcement by the electoral council.
“We have the whole map already, clear and drawn,” Maduro in a speech early Monday, calling his party “a determining force in the history of this beautiful country called Venezuela.”
He said "good wins must be celebrated”, hailing his party’s clean sweep as “impressive”.
“This process … was about reconnecting with the country, walking the streets of each neighborhood of Caracas and telling the people: WE ARE HERE,” tweeted Tomás Guanipa, who ended up in third place for mayor in a Caracas municipality, won by a pro-government candidate. “But the reality is that the country spoke and spoke loudly, through abstention.”
Durante toda la campaña dijimos "Aquí estamos" y luego de esta elección les decimos: Aquí seguimos y seguiremos, trabajando por la reconstrucción de la democracia en nuestro país. #Seguimos— Tomás Guanipa (@TomasGuanipa) November 22, 2021
Luis Vicente Leon, director of local consulting firm Datanalisis, in a Twitter post said the results brought “few surprises”, adding that the verdict was “lamentable” for the opposition.
Los resultados del CNE traen pocas sorpresas. La participación estuvo dentro de los rangos reportados en las encuestas. El mapa queda fundamentalmente rojo, como se esperaba y la oposición logra tres estados, divididos entre la MUD y la Alianza, también dentro de lo proyectado.— Luis Vicente Leon (@luisvicenteleon) November 22, 2021
Pertinently, the elections came weeks after negotiations between the Venezuelan government and opposition in Mexico were put on hold after businessman and Maduro ally, Alex Saab, was extradited to the US to face money-laundering charges.
The opposition chose to join the democratic exercise this time, abandoning their three-year boycott, with a hope of making a strong comeback and to bolster their base ahead of the 2014 presidential vote.
According to experts, the opposition’s lackluster performance in Sunday’s vote could hurt its ability to contest the next presidential election.
Opposition leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who led the opposition campaign, in a Twitter post said an assessment will be made once all the results are announced.
Casi 9 millones de venezolanos participaron el día de hoy. Una vez se tengan resultados totales por estados y municipios y la suma nacional haremos el necesario balance que corresponde. Vaya palabras de reconocimiento a todos los que trabajaron sin descanso en el proceso— Henrique Capriles R. (@hcapriles) November 22, 2021
Capriles accused the authorities of fraud, saying the government “ordered the CNE (electoral body) not to close the polling stations when there were no voters... They are going to put votes that do not exist.”
He made the claims as the elections were being closely monitored by international observers.
Over 130 international observers were present, mainly from the European Union (EU). The EU mission is expected to release its report on the elections on Tuesday.
The head of the mission, Isabel Santos, was earlier quoted as saying that the elections were proceeding "calmly.”
Importantly, Maduro earlier said the EU has no authority to give a "verdict" on the process of the vote.
"All international escorts must respect the laws of Venezuela, and must strictly respect the regulations of the electoral power that invited them," he said on the eve of the elections.
The Venezuelan leader has also repeatedly accused the United States of “interventionism.”
The US has imposed several rounds of crippling sanctions against the country in a bid to oust Maduro and replace him with opposition figure Juan Guaido, who is loyal to Washington.
US poinstman for western hemisphere affairs, Brian Nichols, said last week that Washington has no plan to withdraw its support for Guaido.
Guaido did not vote in Sunday’s elections, accusing the government of controlling the electoral authority.