Opposition In Venezuela Calls For Another Round Of Elections

Oct 16, 2017
Originally published on October 16, 2017 7:17 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Now to Venezuela where President Nicolas Maduro is very unpopular. And yet candidates loyal to him won in most of Sunday's gubernatorial elections. Now the opposition is crying foul and calling for another round of street protests. Reporter John Otis has more.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Spanish).

JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: The head of Venezuela's electoral council announced late Sunday that candidates for the ruling Socialist Party had won 17 of 23 state houses up for grabs. President Nicolas Maduro, who has led oil-rich Venezuela into its worst economic crisis in modern history, predicted that the outcome would bring tranquility after months of deadly anti-government protests.

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PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: "Peace has triumphed," Maduro said at a victory rally. "The homeland has triumphed." But the results sharply contradicted polls predicting a major victory for the opposition. Instead, pro-government candidates won 54 percent of the votes cast.

DAVID SMILDE: Well, it certainly looks like a suspicious result.

OTIS: That's David Smilde, a Venezuela expert at Tulane University, speaking via Skype.

SMILDE: This is a government that for months has been polling between 20 and 25 percent. So it's hard to imagine how a government could end up getting 54 percent of the vote.

OTIS: The opposition decried what it called widespread irregularities in Sunday's vote. For example, at the last minute, the government relocated 200 polling stations, forcing hundreds of thousands of voters to take long taxi or bus rides in order to cast ballots. On Monday, opposition leaders said they would not recognize the results.

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CARLOS OCARIZ: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: One of them, Carlos Ocariz, said that exit polls showed him easily winning in the race for the governorship of Miranda state on the outskirts of Caracas. The official results show him losing. He and other opposition leaders are calling for more protests. But so far, there has been little reaction, not even at Altamira Plaza, a gathering point for anti-government protests. Sitting in the plaza is architect Jose Vidal. He marched against the government but also voted on Sunday. Given the results, he now questions whether the ruling Socialists will ever leave power.

JOSE VIDAL: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: Vidal says, "we now realize that we live in a dictatorship." For NPR News, I'm John Otis in Caracas.

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