Nicolas Maduro has been re-elected for a second term in office as Venezuela’s president in an election rejected as “illegitimate” by his main rival, who has also demanded that a repeat vote be held later this year.
With more than 90 percent of the ballots cast in Sunday’s presidential election counted, the National Election Council announced that incumbent Maduro had won another six-year term after securing 67.7 percent of the vote.
Maduro’s main challenger Henri Falcon came in second with 21.2 percent, followed by the president’s other rival, Javier Bertucci, who gained some 10 percent, said the Council’s head, Tibisay Lucena.
With the country’s mainstream opposition having boycotted the vote, the turnout was 46.1 percent, according to the board, which means 8.6 million out of the 20.5 million eligible voters took part in the election.
The ballots were recorded electronically, making the voting quick and easy. The presence of government troops around polling stations also ensured the safety of voters.
Some 150 international observers from 30 countries and international organizations were present in the Latin American country to monitor the process.
Maduro hails ‘historic’ win
When the results were released, Maduro’s supporters gathered outside his Miraflores presidential palace in downtown Caracas, celebrating his re-election with fireworks.
Maduro, surrounded by thousands of his supporters, also hailed his “popular victory,” saying, “This was a historic day! The day of a heroic victory! The day of a beautiful victory – of a truly popular victory.”
“Never before has a presidential candidate taken 68 percent of the popular vote,” he told the cheering crowd.
“The whole of Venezuela has triumphed! Democracy has triumphed! Peace has triumphed! Constitutionality has triumphed [These were] elections that were constitutional, legitimate and legal,” he said. “We have a president of the people! A working president!”
The president also called on the defeated challengers to join him for negotiations about the future of the country.
He said “permanent dialog” is needed with the entire opposition so that Venezuela could set aside political disputes.
Vote ‘lacks legitimacy’
However, before the official results were announced, Falcon said he would not recognize the vote for what he called irregularities, including widespread vote buying in favor of Maduro.
“As far as we are concerned there has been no election. There must be new elections in Venezuela,” he told reporters. “The process undoubtedly lacks legitimacy and as such we do not recognize it.”
Falcon, who broke with an opposition boycott to run for the election, also called for a fresh election to be held in November or December.
Several of Venezuela’s Latin American neighbors as well as the European Union also joined voices with Maduro’s challenger and said they would not recognize the results of the election.
They alleged that the conditions did not exist for the election to be free and fair.
However, former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who is in Venezuela as an international observer, said he has no “doubt about the voting process.”
“It is an advanced automatic voting system. I come here to keep peace, coordinate and promote dialogue so as to improve the democratic mechanism here. What I need to do here is to see whether people can cast their ballots at their own discretion. Now we all see how people vote, don’t we?” he added.
The US also said it would not recognize the election and would actively consider oil sanctions on the country.
Washington has already imposed sanctions against Venezuela and blamed, together with its allies in the region and elsewhere, Maduro’s government for the country’s acute economic crisis.
On Saturday, the US ramped up pressure on Caracas by imposing new sanctions against the government’s top officials.
Maduro’s government, however, said the US was using new sanctions to sabotage the election.
It called Washington’s move as part of “a systematic campaign of aggression” by President Donald Trump’s administration and said they had no legal base.