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Guide: Fall 2013 Latin American Elections

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Venezuela

Date: December 8

Election Type: Municipal

Number of Seats up for Vote: Venezuelans elected 337 mayors and 2,455 city councilmen for four-year terms.

Key Candidates: One of the most important positions up for a vote was that of mayor of metropolitan Caracas. Mayor Antonio Ledezma—a member of the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition—won reelection with nearly 51 percent of the vote. Ernesto Villegas ran on the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) ticket; he stepped down as information minister in order to run.

Two other key mayoralties include Sucre, in eastern Caracas, and Maracaibo, the capital of oil-producing Zulia state. In Sucre, opposition Mayor Carlos Ocariz won reelection with almost 53 percent against PSUV candidate Antonio "El Potro" Álvarez, a famous baseball player. In Maracaibo, MUD Mayor Eveling Trejo de Rosales defeated PSUV candidate Miguel Ángel Pérez Pirela at the polls.

The PSUV put up numerous celebrities as candidates, such as Álvarez, actor Winston Vallenilla for mayor of Baruta, and baseball player Magglio Ordoñez for mayor of Sotillo. The opposition saw this as a lack of leadership on the part of the PSUV.

Campaigns officially ran from November 16 through December 4, in accordance with electoral law.

Who Votes? There are no runoff elections; victors achieve a majority of votes. In Venezuela, voting is not mandatory. Over 19 million people were eligible to vote in this election, and participation stood at around 59 percent. Venezuelans living abroad can vote in presidential elections; around 100,000 expat voters are registered and most tend to vote for the opposition. However, voters cannot vote abroad in municipal elections.

Election Issues: This Andean country’s local elections were postponed three times, most recently following the late President Hugo Chávez’s death in March.

This election proved another test of Chávez’s party. According to the National Electoral Council’s final bulletin, the PSUV won 54 percent of the vote overall, while the opposition garnered 44 percent. The PSUV gained control of 242 mayoralties, or 72 percent of the country, while the opposition won 22 percent of mayoralties. During the last municipal election in 2008, the PSUV won over 80 percent of the country’s mayor seats.

Venezuela’s commune system is another issue. The country now counts over 1,400 comunas—local bodies that carry out social programs, infrastructure projects, and other services—according to a September census. The opposition had concerns that if the PSUV lost important seats during the election, the government would continue to expand the commune system to increase its power on the local level.