Chavismo Takes Remaining State of Bolivar in Contested Victory

Chavismo won the election by a razor-thin margin of 1471 votes — while the opposition candidate has cried fraud and called for protests.

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas
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Justo Noguera Pietri
Candidate for the Chavista Great Patriotic Pole coalition Justo Noguera Pietri has officially won Bolivar state by just under 1500 votes. (archives)

Caracas, October 18, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) declared the definitive winner of the disputed state of Bolivar early Wednesday morning, three days after regional elections took place Sunday. 

While the results of Venezuela’s other twenty-two states were announced some four hours after polls closed, Bolivar went to a recount due to the razor-thin margin between the winning candidate, Justo Noguera Petri for the Great Patriotic Pole coalition, and Andres Velasquez, who stood for the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). 

According to final results, Petri received 276,655 votes, while his opponent Velasquez obtained 275.184. The difference of just 1471 votes makes Bolivar state the tightest race in Venezuela’s 2017 regional elections. 

Despite the announcement of the results, Velasquez has declared himself governor of Bolivar, and called on his supporters to take to the streets in protest against the government. Yesterday pro-Velasquez demonstrations outside the CNE headquarters in Bolivar led to clashes with authorities. 

“We call on the people of Bolivar, early in the morning for a huge mobilization to reject the regime’s fraud! Criminals!”, he tweeted Wednesday morning. 

Convocamos a todo el pueblo del Estado Bolivar, bien temprano a gran concentración, para repudiar el fraude del régimen. Delincuentes

— Andres Velasquez (@AndresVelasqz) October 18, 2017

Velasquez also said that he had 100% of the electoral tallies to hand and that he could “demonstrate with precision that they tampered with results” — though he has yet to make the proof public. 

Guayana protesta y repudia FRAUDE en el Estado Bolivar. Podemos demostrar con precisión que trampearon resultados.

— Andres Velasquez (@AndresVelasqz) October 18, 2017

Velasquez stood for the MUD coalition after winning opposition primaries against his rival Francisco Sucre in early September. Though Sucre was supported by three of the opposition’s biggest parties; Democratic Action, First Justice and the Popular Will party, Velasquez emerged victorious on the back of support from much smaller opposition parties, including A New Era and the Christian Democrats. His victory was contested but eventually accepted by Sucre at the time. 

Due to a dispute with the CNE over deadlines for the substitution of candidates, Sucre still appeared on the ballot paper, winning 3787 votes. It is unclear whether these were protest votes against Velasquez. 

Velasquez is currently one of the leaders of the self-branded working class Radical Cause party, which has significant support in Guayana though less presence on a national level.

The party rose to prominence in the 1980s through working class organizing in the industrial Guayana region of Bolivar state. Velasquez previously served as state governor after winning the 1989 elections. 

In 1997, the radical left-wing of the party split to join the emerging Chavista movement, while the moderate wing of the party remained under the leadership of Velasquez. 

Bolivar is considered Venezuela’s industrial heartland and the nationalized and worker-controlled steel factory SIDOR, as well as the state-owned Venezuelan Guayana Corporation — including gold mining and aluminum producing companies — are located there. 

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