Opposition victory in polls proves I am not tyrant: Chavez

November 24th, 2008 - 10:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Caracas, Nov 24 (DPA) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Monday said the victories of opposition party leaders in local elections proved that he was not a “tyrant”, news reports said.Around 17 million citizens voted Sunday, the first national poll since Chavez lost a constitutional referendum in 2007, in which he had attempted to remove all limits on the length of time a president may serve.

More than 300 city mayors and 22 state governors were to be elected.

The National Electoral Council said Monday that preliminary data showed that opposition candidates had won in the states of Zulia, Miranda, Nueva Esparta, and also for the office of Mayor of Caracas. Chavez-loyal candidates won in the remainder of Venezuela’s 22 states.

Chavez, who had aimed at winning all the state governorships for his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), was sanguine Monday about the defeats.

“I would like all of you, those who insist on calling me a tyrant to remember, that a year ago … tyrant Chavez lost a referendum by fewer than 10,000 votes. And I was the first one to say, ‘I lost, I congratulate the winners,’” he told reporters Monday.

Chavez called the election “a great triumph for democracy … that confirms Venezuela’s path towards socialism.”

“The population has said: Chavez, go further on this way,” the 54-year-old leftist leader said.

The opposition have, however, captured several highly important seats in defiance of Chavez. Apart from the capital Caracas, gains in the oil-producing region of Zulia and the two most populous states of Miranda and Neuva Esperta are significant.

The opposition have also criticized irregularities in the vote, including the lengthening of election station opening hours in some areas by several hours, and spoke of “fraud”.

Henry Ramos, from the social democratic Accion Democratica (AD) party, warned that “we will not tolerate the alteration of the result by such means”.

Election authorities said that some stations had remained open past their scheduled closing time because of long queues.

During the election campaign Chavez had threatened some parts of the opposition with military action, in particular Manuel Rosales, his main rival in the 2006 presidential election, who is currently under investigation for money laundering. Chavez said that if Rosales’ “mafia” won in the state of Zulia, he could take military action.

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