Venezuela’s Opposition, encouraged by a massive turnout in a symbolic vote against President Nicolas Maduro, weighed a new strategy on Monday to intensify protests and stop his plan to rewrite the Constitution.
The Opposition coalition Democratic Unity Table now wants to outline its final offensive in its goal to oust Mr Maduro, after nearly four months of protests that left 96 dead.
Nearly 7.2 million Venezuelans — out of 19 million possible voters —cast ballots in the symbolic poll against Mr Maduro, university guarantors said with 95 per cent of votes counted.
The result may not have been binding, but Venezuela “sent a clear message to the national executive and the world”, announced Central University of Venezuela president Cecilia Garcia Arocha, noting that 6,492,381 voted in the country and 693,789 abroad. Mr Garcia said final results would be released Monday.
“We do not want to be Cuba, we do not want to be a country without freedom,” said Julio Borges, leader of the Opposition-controlled Parliament.
“Today, Venezuela said yes to a dignified country, a democratic country, a country where people do not have to go because they have no future. The mandate the people have given us is clear.”
Political scientist John Magdaleno said the referendum was a success because it was organized largely by ordinary citizens in a short period of time, and with just 2,000 polling stations, compared to 14,000 during the last elections, in 2015, that saw the opposition sweep parliament.
According to Borges, once all ballots are counted, there will be some 7.5 million votes in the latest poll, which he said would be sufficient to overturn Maduro’s mandate if there was a referendum.
The central question before voters concerned Maduro’s intention to hold an election on July 30 to choose 545 members of a citizens’ body called the “Constituent Assembly” that would redo the constitution.
A dry run of that election was also held Sunday, to detract from the opposition vote which the government branded “illegal.”
The ruling party questioned the results in advance, noting that the process is not binding and is “illegal” because it lacks the endorsement of the National Electoral Council (CNE) — which the opposition accuses of supporting the government.