After months of delays, polling booths finally opened in Venezuela last Sunday for gubernatorial elections in each of the country’s 23 states. Accusations of fraud have already marred the results, as candidates backed by President Nicolas Maduro and his regime won an overwhelming majority of seats despite poor polling numbers that pointed to an opposition victory.
Candidates with the opposition coalition have demanded an electoral audit in every state, citing cases of voter intimidation, repeat ballots and nonfunctioning polling booths. The opposition’s failure to turn the tide on the regional level looks like a major political loss, but the situation may have greater international consequences. Such transparently fraudulent elections have raised the possibility of more international economic sanctions on Caracas in response.
Maduro’s United Socialist Party controlled 20 states going into Sunday’s election and retained 17 despite economic policies that have resulted in national food, medicine and oil shortages, as well as an inflation rate over 700 percent—the worst worldwide. Protests spurred by hunger or even frustration with elections themselves, given the state of Venezuela’s crisis, have been met with tear gas, gunfire and imprisonment.