The legislative primary for opposition candidates in Venezuela saw more than 640,000 voters — twice as many as in a similar vote in 2010, organizers said.
Jesús Torealba, the executive director of the coalition of 29 opposition parties known as the MUD, said Monday that the vote drew “more people than expected.” He also blasted the government and state-run media for trying to minimize Sunday’s turnout.
“It has become clear that the country wants a change,” he said in a statement, “and it is demanding that that change comes peacefully, democratically.”
Members of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) called the opposition primary “fraudulent” and said that it was too limited to be truly representative. Only 33 out of the 87 electoral districts were in contention during Sunday’s vote, or 42 out of 167 legislative seats. The rest either had unopposed or consensus candidates.
Among the winners in Sunday’s race was Daniel Ceballos, the former mayor of the restive border town of San Cristobal and who was jailed last year for his role in nationwide anti-government protests. If Ceballos manages to win the general election, he could be sprung from prison due to legislative immunity.
Vicencio Sacarano, the former mayor San Diego mayor who was recently freed after serving his sentence on similar charges, also won a spot.
The party that won the most votes was Primero Justicia, or First Justice. Party leader Leopoldo Lopez — a former presidential candidate and mayor — has been in jail since February 2014 for his role in last year’s protests.