Two Parties Allege Fraud in Sunday’s Elections
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ The coalition that backed the winner in this week’s presidential elections alleged Thursday that votes in congressional and state legislative elections were counted improperly.
The fourth-place presidential candidate also claimed vote fraud in elections seen as a sign of renewed democracy in Venezuela following two years of political scandal and military unrest.
A spokesman for Convergence, the coalition that supported winning candidate Rafael Caldera, charged that polling station representatives from two other parties had refused to validate votes cast for Convergence candidates in races for Congress and state legislatures.
The fraud cost Convergence two or three national senators, eight or nine national congressmen, and an undetermined number of state legislators, Guillermo Alvarez said.
Meanwhile, presidential candidate Andres Velasquez alleged Wednesday that his party’s candidates were hurt by the disappearance of results from 4,500 polling station tables and the voiding for technical reasons of many results from the Caracas area.
His union-based party, Radical Cause, is strong in the Caracas area.
Rafael Lander, vice president of the Supreme Electoral Council, denied any vote-counting fraud in the presidential race.
The electoral council was scheduled to announce the final vote count in the presidential race late Thursday. The count could change the standings of the second, third and fourth place parties, but was not expected to change the winner.
Lander said the council would investigate any formal allegations of fraud in races for Congress and 22 state legislatures. Final counts in those races won’t be available until next month, he said.
″Whatever the problem, we have a way of correcting it,″ Lander told The Associated Press.
The latest results in the presidential race show Caldera with 1,224,948 votes, or 30.5 percent. Caldera, 77, ran with the support of Convergence, a coalition of 16 small parties, including the Communist Party, that span the political spectrum.
Trailing Caldera are the candidates of the two parties that have ruled since Venezuela’s last dictator fled to exile in 1958. Claudio Fermin of Democratic Action had 948,685 votes, or 23.6 percent and Oswaldo Alvarez Paz of COPEI had 922,210 votes, or 22.9 percent.
In fourth was Velasquez of Radical Cause, with 865,981 votes, or 21.5 percent.
Velasquez, a state governor, called for his supporters to stage peaceful protests Friday and Sunday to protest the alleged vote fraud.
Venezuelans had hoped that Sunday’s elections would mark the end of two years of violence and political scandal in the country regarded as South American’s model of democracy.
Caldera will replace President Carlos Andres Perez, who was suspended from office in May on charges he misused $17 million in public funds.
Under Perez’s rule, military rebels staged two coups last year to protest government corruption and economic policies that widened the gap between rich and poor. More than 300 people were killed in the coups.
Besides military and social unrest, Caldera will also have to deal with growing inflation and recession.