President Nicolas Maduro wins Venezuelan election with eight million votes securing a second term over three candidates. Closest competitors Henri Falcon and Javier Bertucci claimed the election “illegitimate” and demanded a re-election in October while the U.S. State department threatens further oil sanctions on the OPEC nation over the elections.
On Sunday, May 20th, Venezuela held elections to decide the president for the next six years. With a voter turnout of around 46 percent of eligible voters, incumbent president Nicolas Maduro took 67 percent of the popular vote. Former Lara state governor and “unofficial” opposition candidate Henri Falcon, a self-described socialist, came in second with 21 percent of the vote.
Opposition Calls for Boycotts
Leading into the May 20th decision, the Venezuelan opposition coalition — spearheaded by the Democratic Round Table (MUD) — stated that they would boycott the election and called on their supporters to abstain from voting. Reports from polling stations say that while there was a low upper-class voter turnout due to the calls for abstention, working-class turnout was high showing that the PSUV (Nicolas Maduro’s party) still has mass support.
Presidential candidates Henri Falcon and Javier Bertucci claimed that the elections were illegitimate. Falon, who took second-place in the election, Tweeted that he was robbed of a potential victory due to the voter abstention and demanded a new round of elections in October. Falcon posted his Tweet before all votes were tallied and shortly after the polling stations were closed.
Opposition parties, the U.S. state department, and corporate media called Venezuela’s entire electoral system into question. They made these comments despite over 150 election observers guaranteeing transparency and legitimacy including former Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who volunteered to mediate between the government and the opposition.
While Falcon and Bertucci assert over 1,000 irregularities at polling stations, observers affirm that the process went smoothly. Zapatero reassured the quality of Venezuela’s electoral system, “I do not have any doubt about the voting process. It is an advanced automatic voting system.”
With over 34,000 voting stations, many located within walking distance in neighborhoods, observers have continuously verified the electoral system for each cycle. Even former U.S. president Jimmy Carter described it as one of the best in the world. In the face of the opposition’s boycott, the National Electoral Council (CNE), pushed back the poll closing time to 10 PM in case any citizens supporting the opposition abstention changed their minds.
U.S. State Department Calls for More Sanctions Following Election Results
On Sunday, just as polls opened, U.S. State Department Deputy Secretary John Sullivan said that the U.S. would not recognize the results of the election citing “coronation of a dictator” and would consider slapping more sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports.
Sullivan stated, “We need to make sure we adhere to our goal which is to target corrupt regime officials and not the people of Venezuela,” Further, “We don’t want to damage the country in a way that makes it difficult to repair after democracy is restored.”
Venezuela is currently in the midst of a recession due primarily to the tight US economic sanctions already on their oil exports — the country’s chief commodity. This comment from the Deputy Secretary is an odd about-face from 2017 which saw the U.S. State Department support the opposition and their violent guarimba protests. During these protests, many innocent civilians sustained injuries and some were targeted for their race by bloodthirsty mobs mainly comprised of middle-class opposition supporters.
Nicolas Maduro, giving a speech in reaction to his victory from the Miraflores Palace, called for dialogue once again with the opposition. “I’m the president of all of the Venezuelans. I call for a dialogue process. Permanent dialogue is what Venezuela needs,” Maduro stated in front of supporters.