Carter Center Expert Mission Issues Preliminary Report on Venezuela’s Regional and Municipal Elections

(En español)

ATLANTA (Dec. 3, 2021) — The Carter Center today released the preliminary report from its international electoral expert mission on Venezuela’s regional and municipal elections.

The report finds that the Nov. 21 elections took place against the backdrop of a widespread socioeconomic and humanitarian crisis (aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic), a pattern of political repression, severely restricted rights to political participation and freedom of expression, the government’s overt use of its incumbent political advantage, and an uneven playing field.

Despite these democratic deficits, negotiations between some opposition groups and the ruling party resulted in three major positive changes in the electoral environment: a concerted reshuffling of the National Electoral Council (known by its Spanish acronym, CNE) that gave the opposition more representation on the council, the presence of international observers, and talks between the government and the opposition that began in Mexico City in August.

The inclusion of persons tied to the opposition as CNE magistrates opened the door to building broader trust in the possible independence and credibility of the body. It also generated behavior that provided greater predictability and trust in the rules of competition, greater guarantees for the electorate and opposition parties, and a demonstration of greater independence.

But in spite of these positive steps, the Center’s mission found that political and governmental interference undermined the CNE. In addition, legal provisions concerning the media and freedom of expression, the registration of candidates, the suspension of political rights, and the financing of political parties and election campaigns do not comply with core international standards for democratic elections.

The elections were marked by the barring of many key opposition candidates and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice’s arbitrary replacement of the executive committees of opposition parties and Chavista dissidents. There was also a general atmosphere of political repression, and more than 250 people are being held as political prisoners.

The tribunal’s recent decision to suspend the tabulation of votes for the governorship of Barinas is another example of its interference in the electoral process. The court called for new elections to be held in Barinas state in January 2022, invoking the disqualification of opposition candidate Freddy Superlano and ignoring the presidential decree of Aug. 31, 2020, which pardoned 110 citizens, including Superlano, making him eligible to run for office.

While the Center’s expert mission could not conduct a thorough assessment of election day processes because of its limited size and scope, it noted that there were no reports of major technical difficulties on the day of the election itself, and none that kept it from unfolding smoothly in an orderly fashion. While most of the country experienced a peaceful election day, in Zulia state, one person was shot to death and local observers and journalists were assaulted. Other international and national observer groups that deployed on election day noted delays in opening and closing polling places, abuses of the assisted voting arrangement, “red points” (puntos rojos) near several voting stations, and conspicuous military presence at every polling center. Voter turnout was 42.26%.

The Carter Center commends voters, civil society, and national observation organizations, for their democratic commitment during election day and throughout the post-election period.

Read the full preliminary report »

On July 27, The Carter Center received an official invitation from the National Electoral Council of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to observe the elections. In response, it carried out a pre-electoral assessment, including a mission to Caracas, from Oct. 2 to Oct. 11. On Oct. 28, the Center signed a memorandum of understanding with the CNE in accordance with the international standards of the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers, adopted at the United Nations in 2005. The agreement ensured that the Center’s experts would have sufficient access to the process to conduct its work.

The expert mission, which began working in mid-October and was present in Venezuela from Nov. 7-27, 2021, analyzed the general context of the elections and how the process complied with international standards—with a look toward future elections in Venezuela. It focused on key aspects of the electoral process, including the legal electoral framework; the effectiveness and transparency of electoral preparations; the campaign environment, including freedom of the media; respect for core participatory rights; the use of social media; disinformation and misinformation trends, and the transparency of the CNE’s reporting about the electronic electoral system, including during the tabulation of results.

Though the electoral expert team was in Caracas for election day, its limited size and scope meant that it could not conduct a thorough assessment of the voting, counting, and tabulation processes.

The Carter Center mission continues working to analyze post-electoral trends and developments, including possible appeals, and in January will publish a more detailed final report that includes recommendations based on its findings.


La Misión de Expertos Electorales del Centro Carter Publica Informe Preliminar sobre las Elecciones Regionales y Municipales de Venezuela


Soyia Ellison, associate communications director,
Jennie Lincoln, mission director,

The Carter Center
Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.