Venezuela: Maduro's ruling party sweeps regional vote
Venezuelan opposition parties ended their four-year election boycott and took part in a series of regional elections on Sunday.
But despite the return of opposition, President Nicolas Maduro's leftist ruling party swept elections, winning 20 governor posts, according to Venezuela's National Electoral Council. The opposition won the remaining three posts, it added.
Maduro celebrated the triumph shortly after election results were declared by the electoral council, calling the victory "impressive," and adding that "good wins must be celebrated."
The voter turnout was around 41.8%, according to an initial announcement by the electoral council.
Elections held under watchful eyes
Over 130 international observers were present, mainly from the European Union, amid assurances from President Nicolas Maduro's government to the opposition that the elections would be free and fair. The European Union mission will release their report on regional elections on Tuesday.
The move comes as Caracas seeks to thaw its relations with the US and other countries through shows of goodwill. The South American country is facing an ongoing economic crisis and crippling international sanctions.
Why is Venezuela making democratic concessions?
Maduro's leftist government — which is not recognized as legitimate in Washington — is hoping that some of the hundreds of millions of dollars it has stored abroad will be unfrozen.
It also wants to be able to sell its oil more easily, especially to the US, which has historically been its main buyer, and to end the limitations on its imports.
To do so, Caracas has made some concessions, including inviting EU observers for the first time in 15 years.
What has been happening with the opposition?
Some 23 state governorships, as well as positions for mayor and city council members, were up for grabs on Sunday.
Henrique Capriles, a former presidential candidate who lost to Hugo Chavez in 2012 and Maduro a year later, said that the opposition would likely be held back by their division.
Juan Guaido, recognized as the rightful interim president by the US and some 50 other countries — but no longer by the EU — called on the opposition to "unify the struggle." However, he said he was not planning on casting a vote on Sunday.
"What we are going to see is a fight for second place because second place will symbolically mean which opposition should be stopped more, that will have a weight,'' Felix Seijas, director of the statistical research firm Delphos, told The Associated Press.
ab/rs (AP, AFP)