The State Department has expressed concern over the possibility of electoral fraud during this weekend’s gubernatorial elections in Venezuela, as Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime refuses to allow foreign electoral observers.
The elections, which take place on Sunday, will elect Venezuela’s state governors and state legislators, with the opposition coalition reportedly holding significant leads over the governing socialist party led by Maduro.
However, following the government’s creation of an illegal lawmaking body known as the “national constituents assembly,” supposedly legitimized by an election in which authorities doctored the results, international observers fear that the regional elections will also be subject to potential electoral fraud.
“We note with great concern that the regime will not permit the presence of independent international electoral observers,” the State Department said in a statement. “We call on the Venezuelan government to permit independent domestic observers to fully monitor the election and its tabulation of results.”
The United States is concerned that a series of actions by the National Electoral Council (CNE) calls into question the fairness of the electoral process. These concerns include CNE steps such as: closing voting centers in opposition strongholds; manipulating ballot layout; not providing for a complete, independent auditing of vote tabulation software; and a pattern of politically-motivated, arbitrary disqualifications of opposition leaders and candidates.
“Just this week, for example, the CNE announced the closing or relocation of 203 polling stations in 16 states, typically in opposition-dominated areas, and potentially disenfranchising as many as 450,000 voters,” it added.
Speaking to reporters this week, opposition leader and governor of Miranda Henrique Capriles Radonski warned people against abstaining. Capriles lost two presidential elections to Maduro, both heavily tarnished by accusations of fraud on the part of the socialist government.
“Venezuelans are fighting against a continued rupture of the constitutional order,” Capriles said. “If you abstain, then it’s more difficult to bring about the political change that all Venezuelans want.”
Meanwhile, another opposition leader, Maria Corina Machado, broke with the opposition coalition over their willingness to fight in the election, claiming that it would legitimize Venezuela’s corrupt electoral system.
“To go to regional elections today the way the system is set up is to legitimize a National Electoral Council (CNE) that the entire world recognizes as an accomplice to the greatest fraud in the history of this hemisphere,” she said in August. “To go to elections is to accept that we have lost the struggle in the streets, and that is not true.”
“We cannot fall into this trap. We cannot turn our backs on the people of Venezuela. We cannot betray the struggle for which we have called people to the streets for 132 days,” she added.
Venezuela’s protest movement has waned since Maduro’s power grab, as the opposition struggles from fatigue and demoralization as police continue their brutality against protesters, claiming at least 125 lives.
Venezuela’s attorney general, Tarek William Saab, has claimed that he will deploy hundreds of prosecutors, apparently to perform the function of observers, to oversee the vote.
“We hope that the whole operation will happen peacefully and non-violently so that the world understands and interprets that Venezuela is a free, democratic nation and respects the political rights of citizens.” Saab said.