(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s recent elections were marked by unfairness and political repression, but in a positive change from recent years, they did allow greater participation for the opposition, Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center wrote in a report.
While the opposition got more votes, the ruling party won most of the available positions amid low turnout and voter apathy following years of economic decline under President Nicolas Maduro and his ruling PSUV party. Concessions to the opposition allowed it greater representation at this vote, but the background of political repression and restrictions on freedom of expression and participation created an uneven playing field, the Carter Center wrote in its preliminary report.
The election itself was marred by interference from the country’s top court -- or TSJ from its initials in Spanish -- and the General Accountability Office, which included “the barring of many key opposition candidates, and the TSJ’s arbitrary replacement of the executive committees of opposition parties and Chavista dissidents,” according to the report. “There was also a general atmosphere of political repression, and more than 250 people are being held as political prisoners.”
Maduro’s Party Dominates in Venezuela Vote Marked by Low Turnout
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the elections “flawed,” citing arbitrary arrests, the harassment of politicians and bans on candidates. The European Union’s mission struck a more neutral tone, though fell short of calling the vote fair. An election monitoring team from the EU is leaving Venezuela earlier than scheduled, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. A spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell confirmed the observers will leave the country early, but said they are not being expelled, El Espanol reported.
The top court, which is stacked with Maduro loyalists, ordered a rerun of the gubernatorial election in Barinas, birthplace of late President Hugo Chavez and his family’s political stronghold, after the opposition went into the lead. That “is a worrying sign and part of a pattern of intervention by the court, which undermines Venezuela’s obligation to conduct genuinely democratic elections.”
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