by: Renwick Rose
Venezuela has been able to successfully hold local government elections with the participation of the major opposition parties for the first time in years. The regional and municipal elections, for 23 governors, 355 mayors and more than 3000 local government representatives, were held last Sunday, November 21.
In the elections, observed by a host of international observers including from the USA, the European Union, the African Union, CARICOM and all over the western hemisphere, the coalition of parties led by President Maduro’s Socialist Party and called the Grand Patriotic Pole (GPP) scored a resounding victory.
The Head of the National Electoral Council, which supervised the elections, Dr Pedro Calzadilla, announced on Monday that with 99.2 5 of the votes counted, the GPP had won 20 of the 23 governorships, with the opposition MUD winning two. Of the 322 mayors decided so far, 205 were from the GPP, 59 from the MUD and 37 from another opposition party, the Democratic Alliance.
Turn out at the polls was 42 per cent, more than twice the tally at recent elections. The participation of the opposition in the electoral process followed talks between them and the Government, held in Mexico and brokered by the government of Norway. Out of these talks, and following commitments by the government, the Opposition which had previously boycotted elections at national, presidential and local levels, decided to accept guarantees given and participated.
While the voter turnout may seem low, it is to be remembered that globally, voter turnout at elections other than at the national level, is far lower than that at national polls when government and leaders are chosen. Thus in the USA, the mid-term elections of 2014 only attracted a 36% participation.
The ‘Chavistas’, as the followers of deceased President Hugo Chavez are called, can therefore take comfort both in the participation of the people in the democratic process as in their emphatic victory.