Today’s municipal election was marked by anemic voter turnouts in a clear indictment of the country’s political establishment. In scenes mirrored throughout the country, election centres in Caracas–opened since 6:00 AM this morning–remained largely empty throughout the day as disenfranchised Venezuelans overwhelmingly decided to stay home rather than participate in today’s vote.
At stake today were the mayors of the country’s 335 municipalities. According to official figures from the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), voter turnout today reached 47.32% of registered electors, which equals 9,139,564 individuals. If accurate, today’s voter turnout is lower than during the last municipal vote in 2013, which saw 10.6 million Venezuelans cast ballots.
While the CNE has yet to announce the results for every municipality, some results are already known, and the ruling PSUV party appears to have won important races. Caracas went to Erika Farias, who won 66.17% of the vote, while the Sucre municipality elected Jose Vicente Rangel Avalos.
The PSUV also won in Zulia state with Omar Prieto in a special election for governor in that state. The special election was called after the winner of the October 15 gubernatorial vote, opposition politician Juan Pablo Guanipa, was removed from his office after he refused to be sworn in by the Constituent Assembly in what would have been an illegal ceremony.
Reporters from El Nacional visited voting centres around the capital of Caracas early this morning and observed them to be largely “desolate”.
The image below shows the entrance to a voting centre in Chacao, Caracas at 8:42 AM:
At a voting centre in Porlamar, Margarita island, a trickle of voters waits patiently at the front door at around 7:00 AM:
By the mid-afternoon, Noticiero Digital was reporting that voter turnout was likely in the 20-30% range, citing independent electoral pollsters and opposition figures. The estimate was backed up by internal figures from the Meganalitic firm, which estimated turnout by 2:00 PM at a sickly 21.7%. Due to convincing evidence that the CNE has engaged in fraud when it comes to releasing official election figures, it is likely that today’s turnout will be a topic of debate for some time.
Spain’s EFE has an article covering today’s election that includes pictures of voting centres in Caracas today, which you can find here.
Abstention Sign of Widespread Discontent
If these preliminary reports are correct and voter abstention does in fact turn out to be comparatively high today, then the fact could be interpreted as yet another outburst against the Maduro regime’s electoral system.
The last two official electoral events have been marked by widespread allegations of fraud, all of which have severely eroded the Venezuelan people’s trust in the democratic process.
The July 30 Constituent Assembly election culminated in drama, after the CNE announced an unbelievably high turnout rate. Critics’ suspicions were confirmed in early August when the company that provided the voting machines for the election, SmartMatic, confirmed that the election results announced by the CNE did not correspond with the data that the voting machines had collected. SmartMatic’s announcement was tantamount to an accusation that the CNE had simply made up the results.
Similarly, the October 15 gubernatorial vote was mired by irregularities, including evidence that the CNE directly manipulated the results in Bolivar state by simply giving the PSUV candidate the votes he needed to win the election.
Antonio Ledezma, the former mayor of Caracas who is now living in exile, weighed in on what the high voter abstention means for the country through a tweet:
Abstention is the most important sign of the rejection of all of the problems that afflict Venezuela, and that [Venezuelans] do not recognize neither the regime nor those who today play with the dictatorship as valid actors to solve them.
Minister Caught on Video Not Voting
Television cameras with the state-owned VTV network caught a bizarre moment this afternoon while broadcasting Minister of Electrical Energy Luis Motta Dominguez at his voting centre.
As the clip begins, Motta Dominguez can be seen speaking to electoral volunteers who verify his identity by checking his ID and fingerprints. Motta Dominguez enters the voting booth and presumably makes his selection.
Then, the camera follows Motta Dominguez out of the voting booth and to the ballot box. At around the 0:15 mark, Motta Dominguez places his ballot inside the box and holds it for a moment. Then, he suddenly pulls the ballot out and clumsily hides it behind him.
Below, the video:
Maduro Calls for Barring Opposition Parties from Future Elections
Speaking during a press conference this evening, Maduro made a shock announcement by saying that opposition parties that did not participate in today’s municipal elections cannot be allowed to participate in future proceedings, including next year’s presidential election.
Maduro put his suggestion bluntly, saying that parties that refused to take part in today’s election will “disappear from the political map”.
Were the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) to abide by Maduro’s recommendation, then three of the largest opposition parties in Venezuela would effectively cease to exist. Accion Democratica (AD), Primero Justicia (PJ) and Voluntad Popular (VP) all announced prior to today’s vote that they would not participate in the election. Together, they are by far the most popular opposition parties in the country.
Shortly after casting his ballot at his voting centre in the Parque del Oeste area of Caracas, Maduro told reporters that PJ and VP “will disappear” given their stance on today’s process.
Delcy Rodriguez, the president of the regime-controlled Constituent Assembly, said that Maduro’s request to ban the opposition from future elections was being “considered”.
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