Venezuela's Guaido calls for 'sincere unity' after election defeat

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido during a press conference in Caracas on Nov 22, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

CARACAS (AFP) - Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido called Monday (Nov 22) for "sincere unity" following a disastrous defeat in regional elections the day before.

The fractured opposition broke a three-year election boycott to take part in mayoral and gubernatorial votes but paid for its failure to put up single candidates against President Nicolas Maduro's ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV).

Opposition figures won in only three out of 23 states, while Mr Maduro allies won 18 governorships and are well-positioned to claim the final two.

The PSUV candidate also took the mayor's office in the capital Caracas.

Mr Guaido himself rejected the election over fears it would not be fair, and refused to vote.

"It would be unfair to talk of an election failure" in an "alleged election that wasn't one," insisted Mr Guido, adding that it was "absolutely flawed" and "clearly unequal." "Those that managed to snatch (posts) from the dictatorship is a feat... my respects," said Mr Guaido.

But he said what happened on Sunday highlighted "the obvious need for unification" among opposition forces if they are to challenge the ruling party, or Mr Maduro in the 2024 presidential election.

"It is an event that should bring us towards greater unity, a sincere unity," said Mr Guaido.

Mr Guaido has lost much of the lustre he gained with his audacious bid in January 2019 to oust Mr Maduro through popular will.

He used this position as then-Parliament speaker to declare himself acting president after the legislature dismissed Mr Maduro as a "usurper" over his 2018 reelection that was widely dismissed by the international community.

But Mr Guaido was never able to force Mr Maduro, who maintained the support of the powerful military, out of the presidential palace. and within six months he had lost most of his pulling power.

Although around 60 countries recognised Mr Guaido's claim to be acting president, much of the opposition broke ranks and rejected him as their leader.

"It's time to open our arms" to bring everyone back into the same fold, said Mr Guaido.

Election authorities said Monday that 42.2 per cent of the 21 million registered voters went to the polls on Sunday, although it is yet to publish final official results.

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