Low voter turnout in regional elections in Venezuela, opposition returns to Reuters

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© Reuters. File photo: A member of the Bolivarian National Guard takes photos of election materials during preparations for regional and local elections in Caracas, Venezuela, on Sunday, November 19, 2021. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/File Photo

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Authors: Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas

Caracas (Reuters)-The number of voters participating in the Venezuelan regional elections on Sunday was small, and the election authorities reported that there were “small and isolated difficulties” in the elections, marking the four-year absence of opposition politicians return.

During the election period, the entire South American country will elect more than 3,000 governors, mayors and city councils. The country is plagued by prolonged economic recession and hyperinflation.

The vote will test the impartiality of the Venezuelan Electoral Commission, whose members stated that the commission had two opponents among the top five directors in May, making it the most balanced board in 17 years.

The 14,000 polling stations in Venezuela were originally scheduled to open at 6:00 am local time (1000 GMT), but due to the late arrival of polling officials, some polling stations did not open until noon.

Some voters complained that they did not appear on the election list, or that their center had changed without their knowledge. Others said they were denied entry to the polling station because of their dress code.

The chairman of the Election Commission, Pedro Calzadilla, said that such problems are rare, adding that “participation has been very good”, although the voter turnout rate was not provided.

According to opinion polls, the participation rate in Venezuela’s regional elections is usually between 40% and 45%.

EU election observers will appear in approximately 1,000 of the 14,400 polling centers, which is the first European delegation of its kind since 2006.

Opposition politicians boycotted the 2018 and 2020 presidential elections and parliamentary elections respectively, accusing President Nicolas Maduro of government fraud.

If the opposition loses the four governorships they won in 2017, they will lack the power base to run for the 2024 presidential election.

Last month, after government ally Alex Sabo was extradited, Maduro suspended talks with the U.S.-backed opposition in Mexico. After the vote, the president stated that he will not return to the talks until Sabo is released.

In Maracaibo, the capital of Zulia state, the area is one of the most severely affected by shortages of electricity, water and fuel. Due to lack of public transportation and gasoline, a small group of voters walked or biked to the polling station.

“We have to vote, even on foot, because we have had enough,” said Ernesto Urdaneta, a 68-year-old pensioner.

Due to the prolonged economic crisis, about 5 million Venezuelans have left the country, and hundreds continue to join the caravan passing through Central America and Mexico to the United States.

Nerio Subero, a 70-year-old unemployed security guard in Bolivar, said: “I have never seen so much hunger and suffering. Every day, children and elderly people pass by my house and ask for some rice or bread. It’s terrible, this situation must be changed.”.

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