CARACAS, Venezuela – A Venezuelan election official on Friday defended a decision that allowed some politicians allied with President Hugo Chavez to switch electoral districts months after the deadline.
Venezuela's opposition coalition had complained that six pro-Chavez candidates were permitted to change their districts so they can vote in the states where they were picked to run for governor.
"It's an exceptional case," National Electoral Council member Socorro Hernandez said at a news conference.
She said Chavez's socialist party had asked for the six gubernatorial candidates to be permitted to change their voting districts after the April deadline.
Chavez's allies and opponents are competing for gubernatorial posts in all of the country's 23 states in the Dec. 16 elections. The elections will also decide members of regional legislative councils.
Opposition representative Vicente Bello said a total of 108 people have been permitted to change districts ahead of the elections, including pro-Chavez gubernatorial candidates and their families and allies.
Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, who leads the country's opposition coalition, said the changes in voting districts shouldn't have been permitted and should be revoked.
"All Venezuelans should be equal under the law," Aveledo said.
Four of the electoral council's five members are widely perceived as favoring the president.
Vicente Diaz, the one council member often openly critical of the government, said in an interview with Union Radio on Thursday that he disagreed with the decision taken by a majority of the council's members. He said the changes to candidates' voting districts were made "in an irregular way."
Hernandez said that the number of voters involved, 108, was "insignificant" and that similar changes had been made in past elections.
"There's absolutely no act that could be considered irregular," she said.
Opposition voters selected their gubernatorial candidates in a primary vote in February. Chavez finished naming gubernatorial candidates for his party after winning re-election to another six-year term in the Oct. 7 presidential election.