Caracas, November 5, 2004—At 12:40 a.m. Friday, the National Elections Council (CNE) issued the final results of the regional elections held on Sunday, October 31. As of yesterday, the states of Carabobo, Miranda, and Yaracuy were still in contention due to the narrow margins separating the candidates.
Candidates allied to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez amassed victories in 20 of the 22 governships up for grabs (out of a total of 23), including six governorships previously controled by the opposition. The key triumphs of the Bolivarian movement came from the states of Carabobo and Miranda, whose incumbant governors are important leaders of the opposition and who continue to contest their narrow margins of defeat.
In Carabobo, Jorge Rodríguez, member of the Board of Directors for the National Electoral Council (CNE), and president of the Junta National Electoral (JNE) annonced the Chavista victory of retired general Luis Felipe Acosta Carles over the incumbent opposition leader Henrique Salas Feo.
Last Sunday, immediately after the polling stations were closed, Salas Feo preemptively declared himself to have ‘won’. This was prompty denounced as illegal by Oscar Bataglini, CNE board member, and later, with after the manual and automated votes were counted, disproven. The Bolivarian candidate, Luis Acosta Carles, obtained 311,189 votes (51.25%) to the 291.519 votes (48.01%) secured by incumbant opposition leader Henreque Salas Feo.
Speaking from his home in the north of Valencia, Salas Feo postulated that the CNE violated due process due to irregularies in 60% of manual votes and 40% of automated votes. “I do not recognize the victory, but accept the Caracas decision… I must tell you that what has happened in Carabobo is a coup d’etat. The people of Carabobo gave me their support; unfortunatly Caracas had another plan.” These insinuations were vehemently denieded by CNE president Francisco Carrasquero, who accused Salas Feo of being a liar and being unable to accept defeat.
Henrique Salas Römer, governor of Carabobo 15 years ago and father of the incumbant, maintains that his son won by over 130,000 votes (61%), declaring that their party, Project Venezuela (PV), will not concede the governorship without a fight.
At the National Assembly, the new State Governor of Carabobo, Luis Felipe Acosta Carles responded that the people of Valencia “made me Governor; it is they who want a social transformation in the State of Carabobo,” and promised that his government will be characterized by social inclusion and a focus on “satisfying the needs of the people”.
In the state of Yaracuy, Tibisay Lucena, a substitute board member of the CNE, announced that opposition governor Eduardo Lapi obtained 90,799 votes (47.62%) while pro-Chavez candidate Carlos Jimenez has 96,212 votes (50.46%). Although Lapi’s request to the Regional Electoral Junta (JER) to verify the results was honored under the supervision of Lucena, she later commented that the incumbent has continued to refuse to recognize the results and has since been unavailable for comment.
The opposition is claiming that the governor’s house was raided by state security forces, but the new pro-Chavez governor denied this, saying it is a lie.
In Miranda incumbent Enrique Mendoza was defeaed by Diosdado Cabello by almost 20,000 votes. Although he has promised twice to make a pronouncement about the vote, he has so far failed to do so.
It is not yet clear whether either former opposition govenors will accept their defeats. So far both Mendoza and Salas Feo have called upon their followers to protest the outcome of the elections. This has led to various episodes of violence in both Valencia and Yaracuy. According to Chavez, the government will deploy the National Guard in order to ensure the peace and the rule of law if the results of the elections are not recognized.
Chavistas suffered defeats in only two states: in Zulia, where incumbent opposition governor Manual Rosales won by a margin of 12%, and Nueva Esparta, where opposition challenger Morel Rodriguez assumed the governorship with an 8% lead.The regional elections constitute a severe blow to the opposition. Although the individual leaders of the opposition charge that there was electoral fraud, both during the referendum and the regional elections, Chavistas maintain that it is the faltering prestige and waning popularity of the opposition which explains their defeat.