Mary Anastasia O'Grady: Venezuela's sham election

Mary Anastasia O'Grady: Venezuela's sham election

Venezuela's official election results give President Nicolas Maduro a larger percentage of the vote than any other candidate running for head of state since 1958. Even as voting was taking place Sunday, a senior USA official said the Trump administration might press ahead on threats of imposing crippling oil sanctions and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned "sham elections change nothing".

Costa Rica also expressed "its profound worry that the electoral journey did not take into account the participation of all of political actors, nor of global independent observers, which weakens democracy". He pointed out that at the Summit of the Americas held in Peru's capital of Lima in April, 16 countries of the region signed a declaration saying that they would not recognize the outcome of the Venezuelan presidential election due to the non-transparency of the electoral process.

But the main opposition coalition discouraged its supporters from casting ballots and Bloomberg reported the United Nations won't certify the election and the United States won't recognize its victor.

The National Election Council announced that with almost 93 percent of polling stations reporting, Maduro won nearly 68 percent of the votes, beating nearest challenger Henri Falcon by more than 40 points.

Voting centers across Venezuela appeared largely empty for the election despite assurances from government officials that millions had turned out to vote by midmorning.

Accomplishing that should be the focus for global policymakers and Maduro's domestic opponents in the coming weeks and months. "We do not recognize this electoral process as valid", he told local media.

"They underestimated me", said a triumphant Maduro to cheers from his supporters as fireworks sounded and confetti fell at the presidential palace in Caracas.

In a split screen chat broadcast on state television on Thursday Maduro and Erdogan held a stilted translated conversation that had several technical problems

Falcon called on election officials to shut them down, calling it a "pressure mechanism, an element of political and social blackmail" directed at a poorer sector of the population.

Maduro, 55, hailed his win in Sunday's vote as a victory against "imperialism", but his main rival alleged irregularities and refused to recognise the result.

The opposition throughout the day argued that a Maduro victory would lack legitimacy because many voters stayed home, heeding the call to boycott an election seen as rigged.

As world leaders rushed to condemn the election, Vice President Mike Pence asserted that it had been "neither free nor fair".

"America stands against dictatorship and with the people of Venezuela", Pence said.

The government has set up so-called red point zones near polling stations so Venezuelans can scan their state-issued "fatherland cards" used to receive benefits including food boxes and money transfers. The country's main opposition coalition called for a boycott of the vote, suspecting that it would be manipulated.

Javier Corrales, a Venezuela expert at Amherst College, said the opposition's sit-out strategy could be as disastrous as its boycott of congressional elections in 2005, which led the ruling party to sweep all seats and pass legislation removing presidential term limits that further strengthened Chavez. "Venezuela is very sick and we the people are the medicine".

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