By Nestor Rojas Mavares (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – The Venezuelan government, under the leadership of President Nicolas Maduro, won a surprise solid victory Sunday in the regional elections, winning 17 of 23 governors races, against five of the opposition and one still in dispute in the vote count, according to the partial official results.
The president of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, said that with 95.81 of the votes reported and 61.14 percent participation, chavismo has captured 17 governorships with results of irreversible tendencies.
Following the announcement of the results, President Nicolas Maduro celebrated what he called a “convincing victory” of the ruling party and insisted that every vote cast on the day was a vote against imperialism and US sanctions against Venezuela.
He emphasized that his party’s gubernatorial candidates swept through at least 17 governorships of the 23 in dispute, while the southern region of Bolivar is in a fierce dispute between the opponent Andres Velasquez and the official candidate Justo Noguera.
During a speech, broadcast on radio and television, he added: “Everything indicates that we could be winning the 18th governorship” in Bolivar, whose result is suspended while they count all the votes.
“I have to inform that in the count of the national vote chavismo has taken 54 percent of the national vote, compared to 45 percent of the opposition, nine points apart,” he said.
The president acknowledged the victory of the opposition in five governor’s races, but warned that he will not tolerate the opposition taking the path of violent protests, such as those between April and July this year, which left more than 100 dead.
“Here is my hand to work for the peace and prosperity of the country, but for anyone who crosses the line, I will see to it that justice is applied, I will not accept governors who incite protests, saboteurs, I will not accept it, coup, I will not accept it,” he warned.
The president described as a “feat” the triumph of the ruling party, in the midst of the crisis of inflation and basic product shortages, but considered it as a sign of rejection of the “economic war” led by the opposition and the sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump, against several senior officials of his government.
Maduro called on the opposition to recognize the “legal (and) transparent” results and reported that it will request an “audit of the whole electoral process” to clear any doubts.
The results gave the opposition a better balance than the previous elections of 2012, when it only won three regions, but this time undergoes an unexpected defeat in the northern region of Miranda, where Maduro’s candidate Héctor Rodríguez won with 52.54 percent the votes against 45.92 percent of the opponent Carlos Ocariz.
However, the opposition won in the regions of Tachira, with Deputy Laidy Gomez with 63.29 percent, over the ruling governor Jose Vielma that obtained 35.38 percent; and Zulia with Juan Pablo Guanipa with 51.60 percent of the votes, over governor Francisco Arias with 47.13 percent.
The opposition also won in the island state of Nueva Esparta, with Alfredo Diaz with 51.81 percent, and the ruling governor Carlos Mata with 47.46 percent; in Mérida, Ramón Guevara with 51.05 percent, against Gheyson Guzman with 46.03 percent; and in Anzoátegui, with Antonio Barreto that added 52.01 percent over the Maduro’s candidate Aristóbulo Istúriz, who obtained 46.74 percent of the votes.
On the other hand, the ruling party, in addition to winning in Miranda, region of the opposition leader Henrique Capriles, defeated incumbent Lara opposition governor Henri Falcón, who obtained 40.93 percent of the vote against 57.65 percent of the ruling candidate, former Defense Minister Carmen Melendez.
Chavismo also won in the southern Amazon region, which was also in opposition hands, with candidate Miguel Rodriguez, with 59.85 percent, over Bernabé Gutierrez, who won 32 percent of the vote.
The head of the campaign command of the Democratic Alliance (MUD) opposition alliance, Gerardo Blyde, said that there was “suspicious” behavior of the CNE in giving the results and that they would not recognize them until they had the total poll by poll results and that the vote counting is finished.
The regional elections are prior to the local elections to be held in the first quarter of next year, and the presidential elections, by the end of 2018.