CARACAS – After voting in the country’s municipal elections on Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro confirmed the threat already leveled by other government officials that opposition parties refusing to participate in the local elections will be prohibited from fielding candidates in the 2018 presidential vote.
“The other parties, Voluntad Popular and Primero Justicia have disappeared from the Venezuelan political map and today disappear completely because any party not participating today and that has called for boycotting the elections cannot participate anymore,” Maduro asserted.
Refusing to participate in the vote were the following opposition parties: Accion Democratica, Venezuela’s oldest political grouping; Voluntad Popular, headed by imprisoned opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez; and Primero Justicia, headed by parliamentary chief Julio Borges, all of whom claimed that the election was not an independent manifestation of the popular will.
The parties refused to participate in Sunday’s municipal elections after denouncing what they said was fraud and numerous irregularities in the Oct. 15 gubernatorial elections, in which Maduro’s PSUV party won 18 of the country’s 23 governorships, according to official results.
Low turnout marked the municipal vote along with the abstention of opposition parties that refused to participate due to their lack of trust in the National Electoral Council (CNE).
Chavism, the political force behind Maduro’s government, was expected to win the mayoral races in 335 of the country’s municipalities.
Despite the low turnout in Caracas, EFE was able to determine, Chavistas appeared jubilant on election day and the president of the government-supporting Constituent National Assembly (ANC), Delcy Rodriguez, declared that the election was a sign of a “vigorous democracy” here.
CNE Vice President Sandra Oblitas said during the day that the voting was proceeding “perfectly” and with “calm and happiness,” a sentiment confirmed by the operational chief of the armed forces, Remigio Ceballos.
A total of 19.7 million citizens were eligible to vote at 14,384 voting precincts around the country.
Maduro called upon Venezuelans early Sunday morning to “vote for the future” in the municipal elections, claiming that Venezuela is the “world champion of freedom and democracy” for having held 24 elections since the socialist Bolivarian Revolution was installed under the late Hugo Chavez in 1999.
Maduro called upon the 335 mayors elected on Sunday to meet with him at the Miraflores presidential palace this coming week to draw up a joint plan for providing services and transportation to the public.
He said he believes in “dialogue, the word, in joint work ... Let’s make a single plan.”
Meanwhile, opposition leader Maria Corina Machado said Sunday that the elections are “a null event” called by the invalid ANC, organized by electoral authorities that are “fraudulent,” adding that Venezuela is a territory “under military occupation.”
“It’s not an election,” the leader of the Vente Venezuela political organization said on her Twitter account. “To have the regime depart, we have to set limits to ITS agenda, full of tricks, deceptions ... that only seek to cement it in power at any cost. And move forward on OUR route.”
She added in another tweet that “there’s no way out without courage, firmness, coherence and transparency,” reiterating that through “civil disobedience, international pressure and a credible and efficacious plan” a “transition” would be achieved, clearly alluding to an eventual change in government.
Vente Venezuela is one of the organizations belonging to the opposition MUD alliance that has expressed its rejection of participating in any election while the CNE is controlled by officials linked to the Maduro government.
Northwestern Zulia state was also holding another gubernatorial election after the winner of the Oct. 15 vote there, government opponent Juan Pablo Guanipa, refused to take the oath of office before the ANC, an all-powerful political entity made up only of Chavistas and called a sham by the opposition.