Opposition leaders in Venezuela have alleged fraud after electoral authorities claimed that Nicolás Maduro’s socialist party won 17 of 24 governorships in Sunday’s regional elections.
On Sunday evening, National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena announced that the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) had won 17 out of 24 governorships and 54 percent of the votes. Turnout was reportedly at 61 percent.
“The results show the democratic mood of Venezuelans,” Lucena said. “Our destiny is decided by elections and this is an overwhelming demonstration of democracy.”
Gerardo Blyde, the head of the opposition Democratic Unity’s (MUD) election campaign, said that “neither Venezuelans nor the world will swallow this fiction.”
“We do not recognize any of the results at this time. We are facing a very serious moment for the country,” Blyde said.
Meanwhile, Maduro celebrated the result as a “victory for Chavismo,” adding that Venezuela has “the best electoral system in the world.”
“We have 17 governorships, 54 percent of the votes, 61 percent participation, 75 percent of the governorates, and the country has strengthened,” he said. “I ask that we celebrate with joy, music, dance, but in peace, with respect to the adversary.”
In the run-up to the election, the State Department warned that the elections were likely to be rigged, noting a series of suspicious steps taken by the National Electoral Council, like the fact that authorities would not allow independent electoral observers to oversee the 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,” the State Department said in a statement.
“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 continued.
Opinion polls in the run-up to the elections suggested that the opposition coalition held a commanding lead over the socialist party, even though some candidates—such as Maria Corina Machado, leader of the center-right party Vente Venezuela—urged people not to participate in the elections because they would be rigged.
“The electoral board controlled by the regime delivered a mega fraud,” said former presidential candidate Diego Arria, who was also head of the U.N. Security Council. “All polls anticipated a major opposition victory. It is clear that a militarized narco tyranny will not yield power through elections.”
In July, the Maduro regime was also accused of doctoring the results of a poll to elect members of the “national constituent assembly,” an illegal parallel legislature comprised solely of supporters of the Maduro regime, effectively rendering the country a dictatorship.
“We know, without any doubt, that the turnout of the recent election for a national constituent assembly was manipulated,” said Antonio Mugica, CEO of the election technologies company Smartmatic. “We estimate the difference between the actual participation and the one announced by authorities is at least one million votes.”
The vote was also influenced by a number of irregularities, including reports of intimidation and widespread violence that killed over a dozen people, while over 100 people were arrested during mass demonstrations.
Widespread protests across Venezuela were largely halted following July’s election, as opposition leaders chose to focus on the Sunday’s regional elections. However, Blyde urged opposition leaders to renew “street activities” in response to the result.