CARACAS – Voters are heading to the polls on Sunday for gubernatorial elections in Venezuela’s 23 states.
President Nicolas Maduro called on citizens to “vote conscientiously” to “consolidate peace” in the South American country.
“We are all going to vote conscientiously, the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) has called this first election, called by them under their plenipotentiary powers,” Maduro said in an address broadcast by state-owned VTV.
Polling places opened at 6:00 am and no incidents have been reported, VTV said.
Half of election precincts opened within 30 minutes of the official start time and there is a “good flow” of voters, National Electoral Council (CNE) chief Tibisay Lucena told VTV.
Carlos Ocariz, the opposition candidate for governor in the north-central state of Miranda, said polling places in the anti-government bastion of Chacao opened late due to a lack of election workers.
The MUD opposition alliance, meanwhile, said state media outlets were trying to help pro-government candidates win the elections.
“All the national system radio stations in the public media and, especially, Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV) have been engaged in banned campaigning since the early morning hours,” MUD campaign chief Gerardo Blyde said in a press conference.
Public media outlets “are airing different messages in favor of the government’s candidates and against the unity candidates,” an “absolute violation of the law,” Blyde said.
The official campaign period ended on Thursday.
Governing Venezuelan Socialist Unity Party (PSUV) first vice president Diosdado Cabello, for his part, warned on Sunday that the winners in Sunday’s elections would have to take an oath before the constituent assembly.