Voting Underway for Venezuela’s Presidential Elections

Voting has begun today for Venezuela’s 2013 presidential elections, with many citizens arriving at the polling stations as early as 3 a.m, three hours before voting commenced.

By Chris Carlson
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Voting earlier this morning (AVN)
Voting earlier this morning (AVN)

Maracaibo, April 14th, 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Voting has begun today for Venezuela’s 2013 presidential elections, with many citizens arriving at the polling stations as early as 3 a.m, three hours before voting commenced.

As is traditional in Venezuelan elections, the day began with the “toque de Diana;” a trumpet call at around 3.30 a.m. in all major neighborhoods reminding people to go and vote. In Maracaibo, periodic blasts from fireworks could be heard in the early hours as a way to awaken voters.

President of the National Electoral Council Tibisay Lucena announced this morning that by 5 a.m. all the electoral officials were present at their respective voting stations, and that by 6 a.m. nearly all voting stations were open.

By 8 a.m. various Venezuelan media outlets were already reporting a lower turnout than last October’s elections, in which 81 percent of the electorate turned out to vote.

Venezuelan newspaper El Universal noted that in the affluent Caracas neighborhoods of Baruta and Chacao there was little mobilization of voters in the early hours.

In the city of Merida voter turnout also appeared to be lower compared to last October, with heavy rains in the morning hours likely contributing to less mobilization.

However, Wilmer Barrientos, head of operations of the Armed Forces said this morning that the turnout “has been massive”.

So far, election day has progressed without incident. Minister of Justice Nestor Reverol reported this morning that as of 9 a.m. no election-related incidents had occurred in the country, and that security forces are deployed around the country to assure a peaceful electoral process.

Yesterday, however, it was reported that opposition activists had attacked the author of a well-known article that has been making the rounds lately on the internet.

The author, María Alejandra Fernández, published an article last week on Venezuelan alternative news website Aporrea in which she explained why she had left the opposition and decided to support pro-Chavez candidate Nicolas Maduro, calling on others in the opposition to do the same.

On Saturday it was reported that she had been hospitalized in Caracas after being attacked by pro-Capriles activitists, but that her condition is stable.

Also, the Capriles campaign held a press conference this morning around 10:30 a.m. to denounce what they called “irregularities” in various voting stations around the country.

As evidence, they showed a video in which an electoral official accompanied a voter to the ballot box, a situation that they assured was a violation of the secrecy of the vote. However, they also went on to assure their supporters that the vote is secret, and called on them to come out to vote.

The National Electoral Council has said that they hope to announce the electoral results three hours after the polls are closed, however the electoral body typically waits until there is an “irreversible tendency” before making any official announcements.

Polls are to close at 6 p.m., however they must stay open as long as there are people in line waiting to vote.