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The Governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela won 17 out of 23 governor races in Sunday’s regional vote, prompting the opposition to claim fraud once again, without evidence. Lucas Koerner of analyzes the situation

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SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Venezuelans headed to the polls on Sunday and gave the governing United Socialist Party of President Nicolás Maduro a resounding victory. According to the national electoral council, the Socialist Party of Maduro, won 17 of the 23 state governorship so with one remaining, that is too close to call. Here’s what President Maduro had to say immediately following the announcement of the results. SPEAKER: Today Chavism devastated the opposition. Today, we have 17 governorships and today, we have 54% of the votes. Today, we have 61% participation and today, the homeland has strengthened with 75% of the governorships determined. SHARMINI PERIES: Meanwhile, oppositions, the Democratic Unity Party who expected to win most of the seats, it’s election campaign chief, Gerardo Blyde, had this to say. SPEAKER: We don’t recognize today’s results given by the National Electoral Council. Not just because of all the legal violations that were committed during the process, which had forced us to alert Venezuelans to the illegal restrictions on candidates and what took place in the last 48 hours in regards to moving electoral stations in the country, with the aim of preventing Venezuelans from voting freely. SHARMINI PERIES: Joining me now to analyze the results is Lucas Koerner. Lucas is staff writer for and is joining us today from Caracas. Thanks for joining us, Lucas. LUCAS KOERNER: Great to be here, Sharmini. SHARMINI PERIES: Lucas, let’s start with the contestations that the opposition party has. It’s accusations are that the official results does not reflect the will of the voters and that there was some sort of fraud. Tell us what their problem is. LUCAS KOERNER: The opposition has two main gripes from Sunday’s vote. The first of them has to do with the relocation of some 240 voting centers that were largely located in opposition areas. It was announced weeks ago by the National Electoral Council and was finalized on Thursday evening. Though this has a backstory because this relocation had to do with the July 30th National Constituent Assembly elections, which were marred by deadly anti-government protests in which 200 voting centers were attacked when the opposition called for their supporters to take the streets to prevent this vote from taking place. In many of these cases, these voting centers were damaged and the CNA decided to relocate these voting centers in order to guarantee a more smoother process. SHARMINI PERIES: Now, Lucas, this was 274 voting centers that were relocated. That’s a fairly large number, perhaps confusing some of the voters. Is there any legitimacy to that? LUCAS KOERNER: I think it remains to be seen whether those voting centers needed to be relocated for the purposes of this election. Though, I think if we look at the break down state-by-state of those relocations to see whether they actually impacted the vote, some 58 of those centers were relocated in Mérida where the opposition won. 42 of those took place in Táchira, where the opposition, likewise, won. It remains to be seen whether that actually had an impact given the opposition’s wins in those states. SHARMINI PERIES: All right, now the other issue that the opposition has is who appeared on the ballot. Explain the issue and whether it has any legitimacy. LUCAS KOERNER: Well, the National Electoral Council, basically did not permit the substitution or modification of candidates after August 16th so that the out, after the primary Opposition primaries were held, the loser of those primaries were not removed from the ballet. However, in every one of the States, when you analyze the breakdown of the percentages, the opposition candidate had, were unified. All the opposition voters were unified around a single candidate. It was not, they’re basically, none of those candidates who were on the ballot who had lost received any votes because, call in their supporters to unite around the de facto candidate. Again, it’s unclear whether that actually had any impact on the vote. SHARMINI PERIES: All right, now, of course Venezuelan elections are always controversial therefore there’s always international observers that CNE assigns to observe the polling stations and so on. What are the international observers saying? LUCAS KOERNER: Well there’s the National, the Latin-American Council of Electoral Experts, which is comprised of top electoral officials from countries throughout the region, from Columbia, from Honduras, and a number of others was present on the ground and had observers from a number of different countries. They have come out and said that they’re … The vote reflects the will of the Venezuelan people and there’s no reason to doubt the outcome. SHARMINI PERIES: All right, now, has the opposition responded to the position of the international observers here? LUCAS KOERNER: I think it’s important to point out that the opposition, despite Venezuela, this is the 23rd election that Venezuela has held over the last 18 years and that despite all of those being validated by international observers, the opposition has consistently cried fraud in those elections that which it has lost most recently. In the National Constituent Assembly Elections, in which it declared that illegitimate but also in the 2013 presidential elections in which despite international observers being present and validating the vote, they called on their supporters to take the streets and eight people, excuse me, 11 people were actually killed in this post-election violence so if there is a tendency, a long standing trend by the opposition of denying the results of these elections and refusing the recognize the legitimacy of the National Electoral Council. Although, with the exception being the elections in which they win. For example, the 2015 Parliamentary Elections in which the opposition actually won by a significant margin. SHARMINI PERIES: All right, let’s shift to the polls or the sentiments in the community of voters. Now, it is safe to assume that given the kind of contestation and reports we’ve seen on the ground in Venezuela in terms of food shortages, in terms of economic crisis, in terms of availability of goods and so on, and plus, add to that now, inflation which is estimated to be some 700% per year, given all of this, we still had the ruling party candidates from governorship endorsed here. Why? LUCAS KOERNER: Yeah, I think we need to break this down and look at the factors here. I think the first factor, when we were on the ground yesterday, talking to people in Miranda State, which is closest to Caracas, that their, main grievance was the violent anti-government protests that took place earlier this year from April through … and over 100 people dead. The failure of the opposition governor to reign in these protests and they actual State police who had to be intervened by the central government on account of this. This was a major issue for people there, the issue of security likewise. They felt that the opposition governor was not managing the situation in any effective, likewise, it’s important to recognize that the impact of US sanctions and international pressure on Venezuela which had, had a, perhaps, unintended effect of increasing Maduro’s popularity, which has increased almost six points since July. Sanction, economic sanctions announced by the US Treasury Department at the end of August are deeply unpopular and had a direct impact on the Venezuelan economy as well as Trump’s threats of military intervention. These need to be taken into account. I mean, in the words … I think a third factor we should add is the opposition itself has been divided that a strong more radicalized sector of the opposition, which came out of these violent protests earlier this year has refused to participate in any elections and called for continued…overthrow the government. They were calling for abstention, known as the hey call themselves the Resistance and therefore ousting the government by any means necessary including violent protests. We talked to some residents in Los Teques yesterday, who are calling for a 1989 Panama style US military intervention. There clearly is a lot of division in the opposition. SHARMINI PERIES: Lucas does this mean that Maduro’s ability to hold until the next presidential election in late 2018 has improved given that he has all these governorships secured now? LUCAS KOERNER: I think this election represents a major…to the domestic or internal regime change agenda that’s being pushed by the right wing opposition coalition. Nonetheless, this could a escalation of pressure from the United States and perhaps the European Union, that, perhaps, might attempt to exploit this or exploit the calls of fraud to push for any number of intervention whether intensified economic sanctions or military intervention. SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Lucas. All right, thank you so much for joining us today. I look forward to further reports from you. LUCAS KOERNER: Thanks for having me, Sharmini. SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us, here, on The Real News Network.

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Lucas Koerner is a journalist at Venezuelanalysis based in Caracas, Venezuela.