Even with the participation of the opposition and international observers for the first time in years, this Sunday’s elections (21) in Venezuela had low turnout in some of the main electoral zones in the country. The population went to the polls to choose names for more than 3,000 positions, including 23 governors, 335 mayors and a number of regional councilors and deputies.
After boycotting two elections, the 2018 presidential election and the 2020 legislative one, the opposition returned to its presence this year, as well as international observers from the European Union, who inspected around 1,000 of the 14,400 polling centers. It was the first participation of the monitors since 2006.
The news excited a portion of voters. “I feel that people are determined to participate,” said José Rafael Hernández, 58, after voting in Caracas’s Chacao neighborhood. For him, calling for a boycott of the last elections, as the opposition did, arguing that the election was rigged, “was the worst”.
“I would like us all to vote, albeit as a form of protest,” said Daniel Rey, a 25-year-old doctor in San Cristóbal, capital of the state of Táchira, which borders Colombia. “It’s the best way to demonstrate that we want change for the benefit of the country.”
In Maracaibo, capital of Zulia state, one of the regions most affected by the lack of electricity, water and fuel, voters walked or bicycled to the polling stations for lack of public transport and gasoline. “We’re going to vote, even on foot, because we’re fed up,” said retired Ernesto Urdaneta, 68.
Despite the excitement of opponents, observers reported that busy electoral zones, such as the Andres Bello College in Caracas, registered high abstentions — the official figure, however, was not released until the publication of this text. The polls were closed at 18:00 (7:00 pm, Brasília time), and the results should start to be announced during the morning of this Monday (22).
In addition to the European mission, the election was accompanied by a group of experts from the United Nations and the Carter Center, founded by former US President Jimmy Carter. “Everything goes smoothly,” EU mission chief Isabel Santos told reporters during a visit to an electoral center in an area of the capital. The group must publish a report on the elections by Tuesday (23).
Dictator Nicolás Maduro said on Sunday that observers “have behaved accordingly, respecting the Constitution and the laws”. “I hope it will be like that until the end of his observation mission, I hope it will be like that, I really wish it, sincerely,” he said after voting in Caracas.
The speech was a retreat from Maduro’s own statement the day before, when he said that the EU was not authorized to give a verdict on the process. “All international observers must respect the laws of Venezuela and the regulations of the electoral power that invited them,” he said.
The return of the European bloc, as well as the guarantee of opposition participation, are, for analysts, concessions made by the dictator in the search for legitimacy to his government and the suspension of international sanctions, which include a US embargo on Venezuelan oil.
However, the opposition came to the election fragmented and unable to support single candidacies in a number of states, which should have electoral impacts. Juan Guaidó, leader of the opposition and recognized as interim president of Venezuela by dozens of countries, although he does not have any administrative authority in the country, according to his team, did not go to vote, although he did not request an abstention this time. “There are no conditions for a free and fair election in Venezuela,” he said.
Maduro has suspended dialogue with the opposition since businessman Alex Saab, one of his closest allies, was arrested in Cape Verde and extradited to the US. On Sunday, the dictator said that “there are still no conditions to resume” negotiations while Saab is in prison.
The contractor is appointed as the Venezuelan leader’s front man.