The vote in Barinas, held by opposition leader Juan Guaido, is the first victory for the opposition in 23 years.
Venezuela’s opposition has won a historic victory in a tense repeat of gubernatorial elections in Barinas, a region ruled for more than two decades by the family of late President Hugo Chavez.
According to results announced late Sunday, opposition lawmaker Sergio Garrido, 54, defeated the ruling party’s candidate Jorge Arreaza, 48, who served as the country’s vice president and foreign minister and was Chavez’s son-in-law.
Garrido, who according to the National Electoral Council (CNE) received 55.36 percent of the vote, welcomed the result.
“With the unity and strength of each and every one of you, we have succeeded in overcoming obstacles and adversity in spite of all that we have had to face,” Garrido wrote on Twitter.
Arreaza conceded defeat before announcing the results, tweeting “we did not reach the goal” to win.
The by-elections in the state of Barinas, where Chavez’s father and brothers have held political power since 1998, have been held amid widespread allegations of ruling party interference.
An initial election was overturned by a court on November 21 after appearing to go the way of opposition figure Freddy Superlano, the first defeat in Barinas in 23 years for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), now led by President Nicolás Maduro , brand.
Venezuela’s high court, which is one of many government bodies considered loyal to Maduro’s government, has granted a request by the country’s public finance watchdog to sue Superlano over “administrative and criminal investigations” into allegations of corruption. declared “incompetent” and ordered new elections to be held without him.
Superlano was disqualified on November 29 while ahead of Argenis Chávez, one of Hugo Chávez’s brothers, by less than a percentage point. Superlano’s wife, who was chosen as his successor, was also disqualified.
Argenis Chávez resigned as governor after Superlano’s disqualification and did not participate in the race in the special election, which released the governor’s ballot for the first time in more than two decades from a Chavez family member. The ruling party then chose Arreaza as its candidate.
In choosing Arreaza, Maduro said the ruling party needed a new candidate “to go to the rescue”.
Before dawn on Sunday, government leaders and supporters of ruling parties gathered in a rally and sang, “Chávez lives, and in Barinas the homeland continues!”
Hugo Chavez remains popular in Barinas for redistributing the country’s vast expanse oil wealth to the poor, but also the blame for the country’s now miserable economy and sky-high crime rate.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by the United States and dozens of other governments as Venezuela’s true president over Maduro, welcomed the result in Barinas on Sunday night.
“Beautiful Barinas, where it began, ends,” he tweeted, referring to the cradle of Chavismo. “Together we will defend the will of a powerful majority that will not surrender, nor will it, until we see democracy in Venezuela again.”
Maduro’s 2018 re-election was rejected by some of the international community as illegal.
His party won big in the November 21 vote, which, according to European Union observers, was marred by irregularities, including the widespread use of state resources and “arbitrary disqualifications” of challengers.
Maduro rejected the claims and called the members of the EU election mission sent to observe the polls “spies”.