Venezulea municipal race stymies opposition hopes

Leaders of Venezuela’s embattled opposition was hoping Sunday’s elections would be a watershed – that even if they didn’t win the most mayoral seats they might prove that they were a majority.

Instead, the municipal vote seemed to prove something else: that President Nicolás Maduro and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, can mobilize the masses when they need them.

The National Electoral Council, CNE, did not provide updated national figures early Monday. But National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said the ruling party had won at least 234 out of 335 mayoral seats – or 69 percent of the total – with dozens of seats yet to be decided. Eurasia Group, a New York analysis firm, citing government figures, said the PSUV had won 257 seats versus the opposition’s 53.

The PSUV was also winning the popular vote with 49 percent versus the opposition’s 43 percent, the CNE reported Sunday. About 59 percent of the voting population cast a ballot in the race.

Although the opposition could boast holding major cities, including four out of Caracas’ five municipalities, and making inroads elsewhere, the results were sobering. Just weeks earlier, opposition leaders were saying they might win 100 seats and the popular vote as they turned the election into a plebiscite on Maduro’s first seven months in office.

But that strategy failed, said José Rafael Mendoza, a Caracas-based political analyst.

“These results, by the oppositions own standards, were a political and electoral defeat,” he said. “They’re facing an uphill battle now.”

The outcome might also lead to a shakeup in the opposition leadership, after losing four races, including two presidential votes, in less than two years, he said.

Leopoldo López, an opposition leader and the national coordinator for Voluntad Popular, said the administration had an unfair advantage, as it plowed government resources into the race and harnessed state-run media.

But he also blamed his colleagues for the loss. He said the opposition had not pressed its case that Maduro won April’s presidential election through fraud. The government says he won by 1.5 points.

“We called the people to come out and vote [Sunday] when on April 14 the majority expressed themselves and we couldn’t defend them,” López said. He insisted that most Venezuelans are against Maduro and said the country couldn’t stand six more years of his policies.

Lopez’s words seemed to be a veiled reference to Miranda Gov. Henrique Capriles, who ran against Maduro and has been seen as the opposition standard bearer. He was also the opposition cheerleader for this race.

“I did everything that I was humanly able to,” Capriles wrote on Twitter. “Remember, Venezuela doesn’t have an owner. A divided country needs dialogue.”

Maduro has said he will meet with the winning mayors, of all stripes, in coming days. But he’s also looking ahead to the 2015 legislative race.

“This 2015 we have to win the National Assembly with a knockout,” he said. “We have to wipe out fascism and the right.”

Read more Americas stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category