On October 15, Venezuelans went to the polls to elect governors in all 23 states of the country.
As with previous elections, the playing field leading up to the elections was far from even. Members of the opposition have been arbitrarily disqualified from running for office, including several of its leaders. There are also credible allegations of political discrimination in government jobs, which undermine the ability of many Venezuelans to express their political views freely. Due to the lack of judicial independence in Venezuela, any irregularity in the electoral process seems destined to remain unchecked. The combination of all of these elements paints a picture of an election which is far from being free and fair.
This time, President Nicolás Maduro said that every person who voted would be legitimizing his Constituent Assembly, a body with super powers that has already demonstrated uncontested loyalty to the president. After the elections, Maduro said that any governor who did not take an oath before the Constituent Assembly and “subordinate” him or herself to it, would not be able to take office.
The president of the National Electoral Council, which is composed of four out of five government supporters, announced the results of the election, giving the government a massive electoral win: the government party won 18 of the 23 positions being voted on, with the opposition only winning 5. The opposition challenged the results and claimed the election was fraudulent.
Key international actors, including OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, a group of 11 Latin American governments and Canada known as the Lima 12, the United States, and European countries including France and Spain, have expressed concerns about the polls.
The international pressure to restore democracy in Venezuela—including through free and fair elections with adequate independent oversight, but also with an independent judiciary, separation of powers, and accountability for abuses committed by security forces—must continue.