CARACAS, Venezuela, Monday October 15, 2017 – Despite polls pointing to an easy win for Venezuela’s opposition in yesterday’s regional elections, the ruling socialist party came out on top, taking 17 of the 23 governorships at stake.
The opposition claimed five with one seat still to be declared.
It was a stinging loss for the opposition, which had predicted a victory and preached deliverance from the embattled Nicolas Maduro administration, which has been rocked by months of violent protests.
“Today, the truth of Venezuela has won,” a jubilant President Maduro declared in a speech at the presidential palace after stunning his political rivals.
“Today the homeland has gotten stronger.”
“We have 17 governorships, 54 percent of the votes, 61 percent participation, 75 percent of the governorates, and the country has strengthened. I ask that we celebrate with joy, music, dance, but in peace, with respect to the adversary.”
Tension is however building, and the celebrations are likely to shortlived as the opposition coalition served notice that it won’t recognize the results.
The Democratic Unity’s election campaign chief, Gerardo Blyde, demanded a complete audit of the governor races and called on its candidates to lead “street activities” today to protest the results.
“We do not recognize any of the results at this time. We are facing a very serious moment for the country,” Blyde said.
Ahead of the vote, the opposition had accused the government of trying to confuse voters or suppress the vote by relocating more than 200 voting sites and printing ballots that included the names of opposition candidates who had lost in the primaries.
Yesterday, they also levelled charges that Government election officials had purposely delayed the opening of some polling stations in opposition strongholds.
More than 61 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots — a participation rate that Maduro said had put all other countries in the region to shame.
The Venezuelan President reportedly sent a message to opposition leader Julio Borges asking his rivals to accept the outcome of the elections.
“For the love of God, abide by the transparent results,” Maduro urged.