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Jorge Rodriguez

The President of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Jorge Rodriguez, said that with 79% of the voting center results examined, voter turnout so far was at 25%. A total of 2.9 million votes had been counted so far, meaning that about 3.67 million Venezuelans cast ballots on Sunday.

The preparations, voting, and dismantling of the voting centers all proceeded normally, explained Rodriguez, with no incidents to speak of.

Many voting centers had to open late, though, because citizens who were asked to staff the centers did not show up, particularly in upper middle class neighborhoods, where the opposition parties that called for a boycott, are especially strong.

While Rodriguez did not say what percentage of the vote pro-Chavez parties and candidates got for the National Assembly, he did specify that for the Latin American parliament the six main pro-Chavez parties, MVR, Podemos, PCV, PPT, MEP, and UPV, won 88.8% of the vote. That Chavez’s MVR party alone won 114 seats in the National Assembly, means that his party has slightly over the two thirds majority needed to make constitutional amendments and key appointments.

Earlier in the day, as it became clear that voter turn-out was lower than leaders of pro-government parties had predicted, several opposition leaders said that the new National Assembly would have no legitimacy. Maria Corina Machado, who is one of the directors of the opposition NGO Sumate, said, “From a pluri-party parliament we pass to a mono-party parliament that does not represent the broad sectors of the population. Today a National Assembly is born that is wounded in its legitimacy.”

MVR spokesperson William Lara contradicted this assessment, saying, “There are deputies from social groups, independent personalities. Today the Venezuelan people have elected a pluri-party National Assembly.” Jesse Chacon, the Minister of the Interior and of Justice, also held a press conference, in which he argued that the last time parliamentary elections were held separately from presidential elections was in 1998. The party Acción Democrática (AD) won that vote, with the support of merely 11.24% of the total population registered to vote. During the 2000 parliamentary elections, Chavez’s MVR party received support from 17% of registered voters.

According to Chacon, any result in these elections where the MVR obtains support from more than 11% of those registered to vote would give the MVR greater legitimacy to control the National Assembly than AD had in 1998 and anything greater than 17% would give it greater legitimacy than the last National Assembly had. In accordance with such a calculation, the MVR coalition obtained the support of about 22% of all registered voters during this election (about 3 million votes out of 14 million registered voters).

Education Minister Aristobulo Isturiz explained on TV talk show that this type of calculation is the only calculation that makes sense for establishing a reference point because the several key opposition parties called for a boycott of today’s vote. In the course of the day, it was clear that opposition strongholds had extremely low turnout, of perhaps 10% of voters, while pro-Chavez neighborhoods saw much stronger participation. CNE President Rodriguez cited another factor that influenced turnout today, besides the boycott, which was "severe" weather conditions in several states, including the capital, which made voting more difficult than usual.