2013 Venezuelan presidential election
Snap presidential elections were held in Venezuela on 14 April 2013 following the death of President Hugo Chávez on 5 March 2013. Nicolás Maduro—who had assumed the role of acting president since Chávez's death—was declared winner with a narrow victory over his opponent Henrique Capriles, the Governor of Miranda. Capriles had run in the previous election less than a year before, losing to Chávez by an 11-point margin. This time the margin of victory was much smaller (being 1.49%), and thus became the closest presidential election of the country since the 1968 election.
Capriles refused to accept the results of the elections, claiming election irregularities, despite the electoral council's post-election audit of a random selection of 54% of votes, comparing the electronic records with the paper ballots, which showed no problems. Capriles initially called for an audit of the remaining 46% of votes, asserting that this would show that he had won the election. The election council agreed to carry out an audit, and planned to do so in May. Later Capriles changed his mind, adding demands for a full audit of the electoral registry (with validation of all fingerprints and signatures in the records), and calling the audit process "a joke" when the election council declared this "impossible" on the grounds that it would take "years". On 12 June 2013 the results of the audit were announced. The National Electoral Council (CNE) had found no discrepancy with the initial results and confirmed Maduro's electoral victory.
Following Chávez's victory in the 2012 presidential election, he went to Cuba for cancer treatment, returning to Venezuela to stay at an army hospital for continued treatment. On and after 10 January, opponents of Chávez unsuccessfully called for presidential elections to be held after he was unable to be sworn into office due to his illness. Unofficial campaigning had already begun before Chávez's death.
Since 1998 elections in Venezuela have been highly automated, and administered by the National Electoral Council, with poll workers drafted via a lottery of registered voters. Polling places are equipped with multiple high-tech touch-screen DRE voting machines, one to a "mesa electoral", or voting "table". After the vote is cast, each machine prints out a paper ballot, or VVPAT, which is inspected by the voter and deposited in a ballot box belonging to the machine's table. The voting machines perform in a stand-alone fashion, disconnected from any network until the polls close. Voting session closure at each of the voting stations in a given polling center is determined either by the lack of further voters after the lines have emptied, or by the hour, at the discretion of the president of the voting table.
As part of the election administration the National Electoral Council planned a post-election audit of 54% of polling places, comparing the electronic records with the paper trail.
United Socialist Party
Venezuela's foreign minister announced Nicolás Maduro as interim president. Hugo Chávez had chosen Maduro as his successor, and Maduro became the presidential candidate for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
Democratic Unity Roundtable
- Reina Sequera, union leader and former presidential candidate of the Workers' Power party.
- María Bolívar, lawyer and owner of the bakery "Mayami" in Zulia state and candidate for the United Democratic Party for Peace and Freedom (PDUPL).
- Eusebio Méndez, Christian pastor and candidate of New Vision for My Country (NUVIPA).
- Julio Mora, nominee of the Democratic Unity Party (UDEMO).
The most pressing issues were the high murder rate, particularly in the capital, the state of the economy, and land rights. The opposition accused Maduro of trying to use Chávez's memory and image to win votes.
The campaign was characterised by insults from both sides. Examples include Maduro calling Capriles "Prince of the Bourgeoisie" and "capricious". In the campaign, Maduro sang a rap song in which he described his opponent as "the little bourgeois shit who shits himself of fear when the people raise their voice". He also implied that Capriles was gay, referring to him being unmarried. Capriles then said he loves so many women he can't decide. He also declared that Maduro's wife was ugly and asked who wants to be with her.
On 12 April, Vice President Jorge Arreaza announced on national television that two Colombians had been arrested who had been posing as Venezuelan military officials and sought to disrupt the election. He also announced the finding of an arms cache said to be linked to Salvadoran mercenaries the government had previously accused of plotting to kill Maduro.
Over the weekend before the election Maduro made comments in private suggesting a potential "détente" in United States–Venezuela relations. Former Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson, who was in Venezuela during the election as an Organization of American States (OAS) representative, recounted how Maduro personally told him he "want[ed] to improve the relationship with the U.S. [and] regularize the relationship."
|IVAD||March 2013||53.8||30.8||23.0|
|GIS XXI||March 2013||55.3||44.7||20.6|
|Results||14 April 2013||50.6||49.1||1.5|
According to the National Electoral Council (CNE), 170 foreign observers were invited to witness the election. Maduro—like his predecessor Chávez—was able to use government resources which included funds, establishments and workers to promote himself during his electoral campaigning.
Following the death of Chávez, the Maduro campaign utilized the Hugo Chávez's cult of personality and Bolivarian propaganda to bolster electoral support. Throughout the campaign, Maduro had continued using similar anti-American rhetoric ad motifs as Chávez had in the past.
The results came as a surprise, as Maduro was leading by double digit figures in most opinion polls conducted two weeks before the election. Furthering the unexpected closeness of the race was the fact that Chávez had defeated Capriles comfortably in October 2012 by a margin of more than 10%.
|Nicolás Maduro||Great Patriotic Pole||7,587,579||50.62|
|Henrique Capriles||Democratic Unity Roundtable||7,363,980||49.12|
|Eusebio Mendez||New Vision for my Country||19,498||0.13|
|María Bolívar||United Democratic Party for Peace and Freedom||13,309||0.09|
|Reina Sequera||Worker's Party||4,241||0.03|
|Julio Mora||Democratic Unity Party||1,936||0.01|
|States/districts won by Nicolás Maduro|
|States/districts won by Henrique Capriles|
Source: National Electoral Council
Red font color denotes states won by President Maduro; blue denotes those won by Governor Capriles.
States/districts where the margin of victory was under 5%:
- Carabobo 1.27%
- Capital District 3.13%
- Bolívar 3.96%
- Lara 4.31%
- Zulia 4.45%
- Barinas 4.50%
States where margin of victory was more than 5% but less than 10%:
- Miranda 5.01%
- Amazonas 5.04%
- Anzoátegi 5.13%
- Nueva Esparta 6.04%
- Falcón 6.27%
- Aragua 8.45%
Maduro's narrow defeat of Capriles created uncertainty behind the chavista movement on whether the Bolivarian revolution could continue without Chávez. Due to the PSUV's loss of popularity, the Bolivarian government increased political polarization and began drafting laws to make mechanisms of legal repression against the opposition to maintain power. The Maduro government then prepared the National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela and colectivos to participate in intimidation tactics to prevent dissent.
In contrast, opposition supporters protested by banging pots and pans in the streets. After Capriles' call for the electoral commission not to officially proclaim Maduro the winner, National Guard troops and students clashed in Altamira Square. The troops used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse the students who were protesting the official results, while the students hurled chunks of concrete and stones back at the troops on a highway in Caracas
Venezuelan authorities greatly repressed demonstrations throughout the country, with President Maduro justifying the use of force by stating that he was facing a coup. At least 7 deaths, 61 injuries and hundreds of arrests were reported following the protests. Attorney-General Luisa Ortega Diaz said that the violence included the burning of several medical clinics, offices of the national telephone company, grocery stores and other businesses. Following the crackdown by the Bolivarian National Guard, the government then congratulated guardsmen for its actions against demonstrators.
National Assembly brawls
Opposition legislators refused to recognize Nicolas Maduro as the elected president. On 15 April 2013, President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello announced that he would not allow opposition legislators to speak on the floor of the National Assembly until they recognize Nicolas Maduro as president. A fight broke out within the Assembly and two opposition lawmakers were injured, including William Davila, who had head injuries which resulted in sixteen stitches. Elvis Amoroso of the pro-Maduro PSUV applauded the injuries of opposition deputies stating "well done what they gave him".
Another brawl occurred on 30 April 2013. In response, opposition legislators lifted a Golpe al Parlamento (Coup in the Parliament) banner because they were still prohibited from speaking. Violence later broke out, and opposition lawmakers were injured. Government cameras pointed at the ceiling during the brawl. Ten opposition deputies were injured including María Corina Machado, who sustained several fractures to the nose and Julio Borges, who suffered head injuries. PSUV deputy and Minister of Prisons Iris Varela stated about the opposition that "se merecían los coñazos" ("they deserved those (violent) strikes").
The Human Rights Foundation, condemned the assault, with HRF president Thor Halvorssen Mendoza claiming that "the PSUV approved of the attacks against opposition deputies at the National Assembly".
The electoral commission declared that the results of the election were "irreversible" after the planned post-election audit of a random selection of 54% of votes turned up no problems when comparing the electronic vote with the paper ballot totals. Nevertheless, Capriles refused to concede defeat and raised accusations of fraud, demanding an audit of the remaining 46% of the votes. Reuters on 18 April said that "[Capriles] has so far publicly presented little in the way of smoking-gun evidence to show the vote was stolen, though his campaign alleges more than 3,000 irregularities from armed thugs in polling stations to mismatches on tally sheets." Following a telephone conversation between Capriles and Maduro, the latter publicly promised he would permit an additional audit to be conducted on the 46% of votes not already audited. Maduro also claimed that Capriles proposed a "pact," which he rejected.
On 19 April the CNE agreed to audit the remaining 46% of votes which had not already been audited. This was initially accepted by Capriles, who said he believed this second audit would vindicate his fraud claims. Capriles later rejected the audit, after his demands that the audit include the electoral registry as well as the voting records themselves - with detailed examination of voters' signature and fingerprint records - was rejected by the CNE as "impossible". Capriles said that without an audit of the electoral registry, an audit of the votes was "a joke". The CNE's audit of the remaining 46% of votes is to be completed between 6 May and 4 June.
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