President Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 17 of 23 states in Sunday’s gubernatorial elections, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has confirmed.
According to CNE President Tibisay Lucena, 61.14 percent of Venezuela’s eighteen-million-strong electorate came out to vote, marking a record participation in the country’s regional elections, second only to the 65.45 percent turnout in 2008.
The result defied forecasts of high abstention fueled by the current economic crisis as well as polls showing dissatisfaction with the leadership of both the government and political opposition.
With 95 percent of all votes counted, the governing PSUV won in the states of Amazonas, Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Carabobo, Cojedes, Falcon, Guarico, Lara, Miranda, Monagas, Sucre, Trujillo, Yaracuy, Delta Amacuro, and Vargas.
For its part, the opposition Democratic Action party triumphed in Anzoátegui, Merida, Tachira, and Nueva Esparta, while the First Justice party took the strategic northwestern border state of Zulia.
The CNE has yet to release final results for the mineral rich Amazonian state of Bolivar in the country’s southeast border.
The PSUV won 54 percent of the total vote, marking a significant recovery since the ruling party’s landslide defeat in the 2015 parliamentary elections when it garnered only 40.8 percent of the vote. The pro-government upswing follows on the heels of July 30 National Constituent Assembly (ANC) elections, which saw over eight million people turn out to vote amid deadly opposition protests and escalating US pressure.
The CNE indicated that the right-wing opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, won 45 percent of votes, amounting to a loss of 2.2 million votes relative to 2015.
Speaking late Sunday evening, President Maduro welcomed the result, vowing to work with the newly elected opposition governors.
“I extend my hand to the opposition governors to work with them for the peace and calm of the country,” he declared.
The head of state likewise called on the CNE to carry out a “100 percent audit” of all paper ballots from Sunday’s vote.
Under Venezuela’s electoral system, every electronic vote is backed up by a paper ballot. At the close of all elections, CNE officials are required by law to conduct a recount of paper ballots from 54.4 percent of all voting machines, selected at random, in order to ensure transparency.
Despite scoring important victories in several key states, the MUD responded to the CNE announcement by refusing to recognize the results, alleging “fraud”.
In a press conference early Monday morning, MUD campaign head Gerardo Blyde rejected the outcome as “not reliable”.
Blyde cited the CNE’s controversial decision announced several weeks ago to relocate 334 voting centers – predominantly located in opposition areas and targeted by anti-government violence during the July 30 ANC vote– which he claimed impacted 700,000 people.
The Baruta mayor called on the CNE to “audit the whole process”, echoing President Maduro’s remarks several hours earlier.
Blyde urged opposition candidates to mobilize their supporters in the streets in the coming days to put pressure on the nation’s electoral authority.