In Venezuela’s mistaken vote, Maduro shows a way to retain power

However, the mission highlighted several democratic improvements in Sunday’s elections, going so far as to qualify the country’s electronic vote processing system as “reliable”.

The United States, which does not recognize Mr. Maduro’s government, called the election deeply flawed, but praised opposition candidates who decided to participate for retaining the few democratic terms they still held. .

At polling stations in Caracas on Sunday, many voters expressed little confidence in the fairness of the election, but said they decided to run anyway, in some cases because they were considering their vote. as their last tool in a fight for change.

“I know the whole process is controlled,” said Blas Roa, 55, a carpenter in Caracas, who has voted for the first time since 2015. “But if I don’t vote, I don’t do anything.”

Most Venezuelans didn’t bother.

Only 42 percent of voters voted, the lowest turnout of any election in which the opposition had participated in the past two decades. After 20 years of socialist rule, few people in the country still harbor any hope for radical change, instead focusing on exploiting new economic freedoms to improve their precarious livelihoods.

This government-induced apathy ended up being Mr. Maduro’s biggest weapon in the election, said opposition leader Freddy Superlano, who ran for governor in the ranching state of Barinas, once an important stronghold of the Socialist Party and home of the party’s founder, Hugo Chávez. .

This competition remained too close to be called Tuesday afternoon.

The outcome would have been different, Superlano said, if the opposition factions had put aside their fears and organized a concerted campaign.

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