Caracas, October 17, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Opposition candidates in two states have accepted defeat in Venezuela’s regional elections, which the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition has denounced as “fraudulent”.
“Responsibly we recognize that we lost and this has to be accepted,” outgoing Lara Governor Henri Falcon said during a press conference Monday.
Falcon lost by a 17-point margin to socialist party challenger Carmen Melendez, who successfully channeled popular discontent towards the governor’s support for violent anti-government protests earlier this year.
Speaking Tuesday, President Nicolas Maduro thanked Falcon for his posture and raised the possibility of naming him as ambassador to Colombia.
“I thank Henri Falcon for all of his efforts… Maybe Henri Falcon can be named to a government post, ambassador perhaps, in Colombia could be,” he stated.
Meanwhile in Carabobo state, opposition contender Alejandro Feo La Cruz likewise recognized the victory of United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) candidate Rafael Lacava, who won by seven percentage points.
“Rafael Lacava, you are governor today,” Cruz said in a press conference Monday, vowing to “keep watch” over the new governor to ensure he “fulfills his promises”.
The opposition candidate blamed his loss on what he termed “favoritism” on the part of the National Electoral Council (CNE) as well as abstention among opposition supporters.
“Part of the opposition middle class let itself be led by the discourse that promoted abstention,” he declared.
The statements contrast sharply with the official position of the MUD, which said Monday it would not recognize the result of the regional vote.
The MUD – which won five states, including the strategic border states of Tachira and Zulia – has accused the CNE of suppressing turnout with more than two hundred voting center relocations, among other allegations of irregularities.
Sunday’s hotly contested elections saw the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) take 17 of the country’s 23 states for a total of 54 percent of the national vote. The state of Bolivar is still to be declared.
Nonetheless, the MUD has faced criticism from within its own ranks over its handling of the election.
Former MUD Secretary General Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba took aim at the coalition’s leadership for failing to present evidence of alleged irregularities.
“The MUD’s declaration worries me because it doesn’t make sense,” he said.
“It’s not about whether or not you believe the results. The opposition has witnesses at all the voting machines and has a copy of each one of these vote tallies. What they have to say is, ‘Here I have the tallies, and what I have here doesn’t match the results,’” he continued.
The MUD has demanded a full audit of Sunday’s vote, a call that was previously made by President Nicolas Maduro.
Joining the chorus of self-criticism was opposition parliamentarian Jose Guerra, who warned against calls of fraud, which he said would cause people “not to vote”.
The opposition politician lamented the MUD’s loss of 2.2 million votes since its 2015 landslide parliamentary win, concluding, “We defeated ourselves”.
In the southeastern state of Amazonas, opposition Governor Liborio Guarulla accused the MUD of trampling indigenous rights in failing to select his party’s nominee as candidate.
“For 17 years, Amazonas followed the project of indigenous peoples and democracy, The MUD in Caracas ended this by imposing a candidate according to their interests,” he said.
Divided between two candidates, the opposition lost in a near thirty point landslide to PSUV candidate Miguel Rodriguez.
Meanwhile, the MUD has also come under fire from some opposition leaders for having participated in the elections at all.
In a statement published on his Twitter account, Alianza Bravo Pueblo party head Antonio Ledezma said that the opposition was “poorly led” by leaders he accused of prioritizing “personal projects” over the “great objective of urgently changing the regime”.
Back in August, Ledezma and the leaders of other small opposition parties called for the MUD to boycott regional elections and continue a campaign of violent anti-government protests aimed at ousting the president.
Some of these leaders, including Maria Corina Machado of the ultra-right Vente Venezuela party, openly called for abstention, contributing to a dampening of opposition turnout.
MUD calls off talks
In addition to rejecting the outcome of Sunday’s vote, the opposition has announced it will once again boycott talks with the government set to resume this week.
“We will not attend any process of exploration, conversation, or negotiation until the audits have been accepted,” MUD head Angel Oropeza said on Monday.
The PSUV has likewise backed the president’s call for a full audit.
“Let them do the audit and review what has to be reviewed. We have no fear; we are sure of what took place,” PSUV Vice-President Diosdado Cabello stated.
The internationally-mediated talks between the government and the opposition was initially set to resume on September 27, but it was cancelled after the MUD said last minute that it would not attend.
Last year, Vatican-mediated dialogue similarly collapsed after the MUD walked out, claiming the government failed to uphold its side of the agreement.
The Maduro administration, for its part, accused the opposition of making maximalist demands that were never part of the preliminary negotiated framework.