Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has lashed out at the European Union (EU) election observers as “spies,” dismissing their claim that the last week’s vote was marred by irregularities.
“Those who came as enemies, the delegation of spies from the European Union, found not a bit of evidence to criticize the electoral system,” Maduro said of the November 21 polls for gubernatorial and mayoral posts in the oil-rich Central American nation.
Maduro’s ruling socialist party claimed a landslide victory in the country’s first vote to include top opposition parties in nearly four years, bagging 20 of the 23 gubernatorial offices and the mayorship of the capital Caracas.
The opposition parties, ending their three-year boycott of regional elections, walked away with the remaining three posts.
It marked the first time in 15 years that the EU sent a team to observe Venezuela’s elections.
The mission included 1,000 observers who monitored voting in 22 out of 23 polls. The full report is expected to be released in two months.
“They looked to stain the electoral process (in a report) and they couldn’t. A delegation of spies – they weren’t observers – wandered freely around the country, spying on the country’s social, economic and political life,” the Venezuelan president said during a broadcast on state television.
The EU observation mission Tuesday raised concerns about what it alleged as “lack of adherence to the rule of law” during the last week’s election and “extended use of state resources in the campaign,” while noting “better conditions” than previous contests.
Head of the mission, Isabel Santos, said Venezuela’s national electoral authority is more politically balanced than it has been in 20 years, but added that other longstanding problems with the country’s political system continue.
“The campaign was also marked by the extended use of state resources,” and “unequal access to media outlets”, Santos claimed in her remarks.
However, Maduro in his Sunday speech insisted that the European Union “couldn’t stain the electoral process”, calling the vote “impeccable, beautiful”.
He had earlier maintained that the EU has no authority to give a “verdict” on the process of the vote.
“All international escorts must respect the laws of Venezuela, and must strictly respect the regulations of the electoral power that invited them,” Maduro said on the eve of the elections.
In his remarks on Sunday, Maduro said he will be holding meetings with opposition governors, while suggesting that the ruling socialists could have lost in a few states and municipalities due to voters punishing the party at the polls.
The opposition chose to join the democratic exercise last week, abandoning their years-long boycott, with an eye on 2024 presidential election. However, the lackluster performance, many believe, could hurt its ability to challenge Maduro in the 2024 vote.