Opposition hopes to win governorships in Venezuelan elections

World Today

Venezuelan opposition leaders are trying to unseat the ruling socialist government in provincial elections. A coalition of opposition parties currently has just three governorships, but they hope to increase their control to as many as 19, striking a blow against President Nicolas Maduro.

CGTN’s Stephen Gibbs reports.

Governor elections are not typically a big event in Venezuela. But these are unusual times.

In the midst of the deepest recession in the world, the opposition wants to prove that it has majority support.

The government, meanwhile, hopes to demonstrate that despite accusations to the contrary, Venezuela remains a democracy.

“We must prove that we are a democratic country,” President Nicolas Maduro stressed as the day began. “They have said that we are a dictatorship. No. We are a democratic country, rebellious, with a sense of equality, with a sense of honor, of dignity.”

In Caracas, citizens in a pro-opposition area waited hours to vote. There was patience, but some dejection too.

“I am that point when I think this country is lost,” one woman said. “I am in the 5th year at medical school and I see every day people dying, and it’s very, very hard.”

“I am voting to recover democracy, to recover democracy here in Venezuela,” a man said.

The voting process seemed slow. A low turnout would likely favor the government.

Many in the opposition have struggled to decide whether to participate in this election, saying that Venezuela is no longer a democracy.

That was a question I put to the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader who is currently under house arrest.

How do you address the apparent contradiction of saying there is no democracy, while participating in a vote at the same time, I asked.

“Democracy is not only an election,” Lilian replied. “Democracy is not having political prisoners in the country. Democracy is having justice. Democracy is having rule of law, and we don’t have that.”

Whatever the result, most power remains in the government’s hands. The country no longer has a conventional parliament, instead recognizing what it calls a “constituent assembly,” which is entirely loyal to the president.

The government says all new governors will have to swear allegiance to this body.  Opposition leaders says that is out of the question.

Both the government and opposition agree that voting in this election is important. What is not clear, however, is how either side will proceed once the results are known.