Boycotted elections in Venezuela: A loud silence

Victory for Nicolás Maduro with only a third of voters out

Boycotted elections in Venezuela
Venezuela elections boycotted by opposition parties net leader Nicolas Maduro a victory at the National Assembly.
  • Boycotted elections in Venezuela netted a political alliance led by leader Nicolás Maduro a sweeping victory. Opposition parties and groups did not take part.
  • Only about a third of voters took part. Many governments, including the U.S. and Canada, disputed the validity of the elections.
  • Venezuela is in the midst of a years-long economic crisis. The IMF expects the economy to contract by a quarter this year and the country’s currency is virtually worthless.

Boycotted elections in Venezuela netted a political alliance led by leader Nicolás Maduro a sweeping victory, even though the opposition say just a tiny fraction of registered voters turned out.

Venezuela held an election on Sunday, December 6 for the country’s National Assembly. Opposition parties did not take part, all but guaranteeing a victory for Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and its allies, which grabbed about two thirds of the available seats.

Maduro, 58, and his party were quick to celebrate victory. There were no widespread protests or rioting and the electoral process appeared orderly, even though just 31 percent of registered voters cast ballots, the Associated Press reported, quoting Venezuelan officials.

Many said the opposition’s boycotting of the election was a protest in itself and a strong rebuke of the leadership regime.

“Yesterday there was a forceful protest demonstration, because abstention has become a civic tool,” Antonio Ledezma, former mayor of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, and leader of the opposition said in a radio interviewin Colombia on Monday.

Boycotted elections in Venezuela

Official results as of December 7 at 6:25 p.m. local time put Maduro’s Socialist United Party of Venezuela (PSUV) on a path to win 157 seats out of the 277 possible in the Legislative Assembly.

The Venezuelan opposition has no plans to recognize the legitimacy of the results and will continue to call for free and fair elections in the Latin American country.

While there are no official figures, opposition parties estimate that between 70 percent and 90 percent of registered voters did not take part in the election.

“With our silence, we send a forceful and unequivocal message to the tyranny, letting it know that neither with the greatest of threats nor with the greatest of outrages we are going to give in, and also to the entire political class by telling them that we have already responded, a and said again what we want: the eviction of the criminal regime as soon as possible,” said the opposition movement Vente Venezuela in a press release.

“Sunday’s process IS NOT AN ELECTION, but rather a cruel trap to keep the criminal regime in power and consolidate Venezuela as the epicenter of the world’s money laundering.”

Governments reject results of boycotted elections

Less than 24 hours after the election, governments from 46 countries around the world rejected the results, 18 in the Americas.

Most countries have recognized Juan Guaidó, the former president of the Legislative Assembly, as the president of Venezuela since January 2019. Despite the lack of international recognition, Maduro controls the army and continues to hold on to power in Venezuela and Guaidó has only limited sway domestically. (See, Venezuela and Unrest Worsened by Fixed Election)

Countries with dubious track records of free and fair elections like Russia, Cuba and Iran backed Sunday’s polls.

In Venezuela the opposition insists that the new National Assembly will have no legitimacy, if the country’s constitution is followed.

“The [current] National Assembly remains the legitimate one, because since there is no transparent and legal electoral process, of course the constitutional principle of continuity is applied,” said Ledezma, who lives in exile in Spain since falling afoul of Maduro’s regime years prior.

Fuel drought hits the country

On Sunday, there were long queues across the Latin American country, not at the polls but at fuel stations.

“Everyone saw that there were more people in the queues of the gas stations to get a little bit of fuel, than in the voting centers,” said Ledezma.

Venezuela was once the richest country in Latin America thanks to the largest oil reserves in the world. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2020, Venezuela is home to 17.5 percent of the world’s oil reserves.

Despite an overabundance of petroleum, the country now has to rely on shipments from Iran and then it can currently only meet a fraction of the demand for oil. Venezuela currently does not produce enough oil to keep all its cars on the road or its electric plants running. Blackouts happen every day and also affect the water supply.

There is also a shortage of skilled manpower to run what infrastructure is left. More than 5 million people have left the country running away from hunger and lack of opportunity. The International Monetary Fund says the country’s GDP will contract by a quarter. Hyperinflation has decimated the country’s currency, which is now worth more for its paper than as money.

Geopolitical crisis

Maduro’s regime is trying to cope with the fuel shortage by tapping its only foreign source left: Iran. Both countries are facing sanctions, but Iranian-sanctioned tankers are circling the world on a regular basis and avoiding banned waters to supply the also sanctioned Latin American country with some fuel.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has increased ocean patrols along the Caribbean and have managed to seize some of the Iranian tankers.

“This past summer, the Iranian regime tried to supply gasoline to fuel Nicolás Maduro’s machine of repression,”tweeted Cale Brown, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department. “Instead, @TheJusticeDept is selling the cargo and sending the $40M in proceeds to the Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund. That’s poetic and tangible justice.”

The U.S. condemned the weekend elections. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the election was fraudulent.

“The United States will continue to recognize Interim President Guaidó and the legitimate National Assembly,” it said. “The international community cannot allow Maduro, who is in power illegitimately because he stole the 2018 election, to gain from stealing a second election.”

Still, neither Maduro nor the 37-year-old Guaidó are particularly popular in Venezuela. Maduro is seen as having held on to power regardless of popular demand and despite an ongoing and crippling economic crisis. Guaidó, for his part, has given up much of his popularity for failing to make headway in removing Maduro from power despite overwhelming international support.

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne said his country does not recognize the results of the elections and that the process was not a “free and fair exercise of democracy”, the CBC reported.

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