“Bolivarian” Pro-Chavez Forces Sweep Regional Vote in Venezuela

Only Zulia and Nueva Esparta for the opposition, with Yaracuy and Carabobo still too close to call. All remaining 18 governorships, including Miranda and the Capital, in the hands of pro-Chavez forces.

Caracas, November 1, 2004—Preliminary results of the National Electoral Council (CNE), which were presented to Venezuela at about 1am of November 1st, indicate that pro-Chavez forces won at least 18 of the country’s 22 state governorships. In several cases the vote was still to close to call. In others, where the CNE indicated that Chavez supporters had won, opposition candidates declared that the CNE results were wrong and that they had won.

In one of the most important and contested races, for the state governorships of Miranda, Chavez’s right hand man, Disdado Cabello, appears to have won with 53% of the vote. The Miranda campaign took on special importance because the current governor, Enrique Mendoza, who ran for reelection, was one of the opposition’s main leaders and one of its presidential hopefuls against Chavez. Mendoza, in a speech he gave right after the preliminary results were announced, said that the CNE results were wrong and that according to his calculations from the print-outs of the voting machines he won the vote.

Similarly, in another highly contested race, for the governorship of Carabobo state, in which the current opposition governor, Henrique Salas Feo, the son of another main opposition leader, Henrique Salas Römer, is said to have lost against Chavez loyalist Felipe Acosta Carles with 48% to 50% of the vote. Salas Feo, however, also said that their count of the voting centers show that he won. Carabobo results could still change because the preliminary results are fairly close and not all votes have been counted yet.

The opposition did win clearly in Zulia, also a very important state, where Manuel Rosales, the current governor won reelection with 55% of the vote against the pro-Chavez challenger.

The only other state that the opposition won decidedly was Nueva Esparta, which is the vacation Island of Margarita, where the current pro-Chavez governor was defeated by the opposition candidate Morel Rodriguez with 51% of the vote to 43% for the incumbent.

Another state, which is traditionally an opposition stronghold, Yaracuy, appears to be too close to call, even though the CNE gave the pro-Chavez candidate a slight lead.

In the very important mayor races of the capital of Caracas, Juan Barreto, the Chavez supporter, won the Greater Caracas mayoralty with 62% of the vote against 38% for the former mayor and former presidential candidate Claudio Fermin. In the largest Caracas city district of Libertador, incumbent Mayor Freddy Bernal beat his challengers decisively with 74% of the vote.

Results for the mayor’s races still have to be announced, but it is estimated that pro-Chavez forces should be able to double their representation from about one third of the 335 mayor positions to about two-thirds.

Chavez, in a victory speech he held in front of the Miraflores presidential palace, said, “We have entered into a new phase. Venezuela has changed forever.”

This is the ninth national vote in Venezuela since 1998, in which Chavez and his “Bolivarian” supporters won decisively.