President Hugo Chavez's governing party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), got mixed results in the regional and local elections today, winning strongly in 17 out of 23 states, but losing the country's two most populous states and the Capital District of Caracas, with two more states still to be decided.
According to Lucena, participation had reached an unprecedented high for a regional vote, at 65.45%. Over 17 million voters were registered, which is several million more than in the last such election four years ago. As a result, lines tended to be long and many polling places had to remain open far longer than the official closing time of 4pm.
Chávez's PSUV lost the governorships of the two most populous states, Miranda and Zulia, and the mayor's office of greater Caracas, which will be a significant blow to Chávez and his movement.
The perhaps greatest surprise is the upset victory, with 52.45% of the vote, of opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, of the Brave People's Alliance, in greater Caracas. Ledezma once was governor of the city, from 1992 to 1995, when it was an appointed office. He was then elected as mayor of the city's main municipality of Libertador in 1995. Ledezma is considered to be an integral part of the country's old political guard, given his ties to former President Carlos Andrés Pérez.
His challenger this time around was Aristóbulo Isturiz, also a former mayor of Libertador, and former education minister for Chávez. Isturiz is one of the few Afro-Venezuelan politicians of Venezuela with national name recognition.
In a late-night address to the nation, President Chávez congratulated the Venezuelan people for having participated in the electoral event in a "civic and joyful" manner.
The event "ratifies" Venezuelan democracy, but not like the "democracy before" his election to the presidency, which "belonged to the elites," said Chávez.
Chávez also conceded defeat in the state of Miranda and of the capital district, asking, "Who can say that there is a dictatorship in Venezuela? Well, perhaps some will continue to say so."
P.S. I can't find an existing Venezuela thread, so this will have to do.