Caracas, Venezuela: National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena announced that Candidates loyal to the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro won at least 17 of 23 governorships up for grabs in Sunday’s elections but opposition leaders immediately rejected the tally, citing exit polls that indicated their candidates won many states.
Tibisay Lucena said conclusive results for 22 of 23 states had been tallied, with 96% of votes counted. She said turnout was 61.1%. The only results left pending were for Bolivar state in the country’s southeast.
“The results show the democratic mood of Venezuelans,” Tibisay Lucena said, after announcing that the PSUV party, which is controlled by Maduro, had won a majority of state houses. “Our destiny is decided by elections and this is an overwhelming demonstration of democracy.”
The opposition lost all three governorships that it had held, in the states of Miranda, Lara and Amazonas. But candidates aligned with the Democratic Unity alliance of opposition parties did win in Zulia, Merida, Tachira, Anzoategui and Nueva Esparta states.
Maduro said his government had scored an “emphatic victory” over its rivals.
“The opposition has five,” Maduro underscored in a speech to supporters, adding that his party could win one further state where the results were still in dispute.
Sunday’s vote came against the backdrop of an International Monetary Fund report in which it sees Venezuela’s economic downturn, and the suffering of its population, continuing.
Venezuela “remains in a full-blown economic, humanitarian, and political situation with no end in sight,” the Fund said in a report on Latin American economies.
International powers accuse Maduro of dismantling democracy by taking over state institutions in the wake of an economic collapse caused by a fall in the price of oil, its main source of revenue.
Sunday’s polls were the first contested by the opposition since legislative elections in 2015 that gave it a majority in the National Assembly.
The MUD has seen Maduro’s hand strengthened after he faced down four months of protests that killed 125 people, forming a Constituent Assembly packed with his own allies and wresting legislative power from the opposition-dominated National Assembly.
For Maduro, the polls were an opportunity to counter allegations of dictatorship leveled at him at home and abroad after forming the Constituent Assembly.