Sunday’s low turnout and messy numbers reveal that Chavismo’s electoral machinery is more rusty than expected. Will the regime replace Maduro, and seek legitimacy, or bet for a Nicaraguazo in 2024?
Despite extremely low turnout reported throughout the country, Amoroso’s CNE assures -with numbers that changed overnight- that over 10 million Venezuelans participated in the Esequibo referendum. The reality, instead, reveals that Chavismo’s electoral capability is more rusty than expected.
Venezuela’s Invisible 10 Million Voters
On Sunday night, after extending the closure time of the polling centers for two more hours, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the results of the referendum on Venezuela’s claim over the Esequibo territory controlled by Guyana: “turnout was historic”, the CNE’s president Elvis Amoroso said, as he announced that 10.554.320 votes had been cast. The language was opaque: did “votes” referred to each vote for each one of the five questions included in the referendum? VTV, the state channel, seemed to support this idea: it mentioned 10 million “affirmative votes”, which would signify around 2.1 million voters – a smaller turnout than the opposition’s primaries. Dictator math.
The next morning, Amoroso decided to clarify: the number referred to voters. But, out of the blue, the number had now gotten smaller: 10.431.907 voters. Doubts arose as soon as the results were first announced. Not only were there no opposition polling center witnesses or independent monitoring, but all non-governmental reports showed empty polling stations throughout the country. The streets were empty. Some nightclubs and bodegas were even selling alcohol, despite Venezuela’s “dry law” for electoral weekends. It seems –like in 2017, 2018 and 2020– that Venezuela has undergone another sham election.
Venezuela’s authoritarian regime is holding a referendum over a claim the country has kept for decades. Why? To face the opposition, measure its mobilization power and stroke electoral nationalism before the 2024 elections
Maria Corina Machado and her allies must prepare for scenarios where Maduro sets up uncompetitive elections and the Biden administration doesn’t fully retaliate. The White House is eyeing a working relationship with Miraflores, whoever governs beyond 2024