Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro will serve a second term in office after winning the presidential election on May 20. With 92 percent of voting centers reporting, Maduro has won 68 percent of the vote. His closest competitor, Henri Falcón, won only 21 percent.
The election was marred by low voter turnout and accusations of irregularities. Based on official figures, only 46.1 percent of the electorate turned out to vote, a significant decline from the nearly 80 percent who voted in 2013. However, even that figure has been questioned by members of the opposition, who say that turnout was as low as 30 percent. Speaking to Reuters, one source said that only 32.3 percent of voters actually cast ballots. Reports of low turnout were corroborated by the New York Times, which reported that there were no lines at many polling centers, whereas in the past lines were common.
The low turnout can be attributed in part to calls by opposition leaders for a boycott of the election. Although Venezuela has a history of free and fair elections, Maduro and his party have been accused of voting irregularities in the past, particularly during local elections and in a vote to establish a Constitutional Assembly tasked with rewriting the Constitution.
As a result, Henri Falcón was the only major opposition candidate to challenge Maduro, and many voters simply stayed home. Those who did show up to vote reported that booths had been set up to scan “fatherland cards” – electronic cards that are required to receive free food. Many saw the requirement to scan food cards as a way to buy votes for Maduro, who controls access to what little food remains in the country.
With Maduro’s victory, Venezuela will continue to face the problems that have plagued it for the past several years. Because Venezuela has not made the appropriate investments in its infrastructure, income from oil has been reduced – income that has traditionally been used to buy items such as food and medicine from other countries. At the same time, strict currency controls have created hyperinflation, further limiting citizens’ ability to acquire basic needs.
As Venezuela cracks down on democracy, it will ostracize itself from other countries, furthering the problems created by poor economic management. The U.S., the EU, and Venezuela’s Latin American neighbors have all threatened to increase sanctions on Venezuela if the election is found to be unfair.
Author Bill Ostrove covers Latin America & Caribbean for Forecast International’s International Military Markets series, where he bringings a wealth of expertise on the political and economic forces shaping these markets. The IMM series examines the military capabilities, equipment requirements, and force structures inventories of 140 countries, with corresponding coverage of the political and economic trends shaping the defense outlook for these individual countries and regions.