The nation’s major opposition parties have made the job easier.
After the unexpected defeat of most of its candidates in regional elections in October, a broad but fractious alliance of opposition parties announced that it was boycotting the municipal contests to protest what it called a rigged, corrupt electoral system that favored Mr. Maduro and his party.
Participation, opposition leaders argued, would only serve to legitimize Mr. Maduro’s rule, which they — and some foreign governments — have called a dictatorship.
The elections unfolded against a backdrop of economic misery in Venezuela. According to statistics published last week by the National Assembly, inflation in November was nearly 57 percent — above the 50 percent mark that is commonly regarded as the threshold of hyperinflation. Profound shortages of food and medicine, the scarcity of cash and a general breakdown of public services continue to worsen by the day, driving a surge of emigration.
Despite the call for a boycott on Sunday, an array of opposition candidates were running, most as independents. Untethered from their parties — and from the scaffolding of support and money that such relationships bring — many of their campaigns barely registered with potential voters, providing little contest against the government-backed candidates of the United Socialist Party.
“I don’t know who any of the opposition candidates are,” said Jesús Gómez, 37, the chief of security for a supermarket chain, who was on his way to vote on Sunday in Ocumare del Tuy, a city south of Caracas, the capital.
All he was sure of was that he would vote — an expression of his “rights,” he said — and that he would cast his vote against the Maduro government, even if he suspected that the electoral process would be riddled with fraud.
“Everything’s already prearranged,” he said. “This isn’t a secret at all.”
Throughout the day, polling stations around the capital had barely a trickle of voters. In past elections, at least in some places, lines of people numbering in the hundreds snaked down the block and wait times stretched for hours.
Opposition voters who turned out in defiance of the boycott said they were compelled by civic duty despite an overarching feeling of futility.
“They are going to win,” Estela Prisco, 69, said of the United Socialist Party’s candidates, while walking a Schnauzer on her way to vote in downtown Caracas.
“But still there are people who come out against them,” she said. “And at the very least they will look and see that there are voters who stand against them.”
Pro-government voters seemed far less anxious about the course of the day, saying that the opposition had only itself to blame for not fully taking advantage of the opportunity.
“That’s called thoughtlessness,” Juan Atencio, 80, a retired hotel administrator, said of the low turnout. “They think we have the elections secured.”
Standing outside a polling center in central Caracas, he said he intended to vote for the socialist party’s candidate in his municipality, Libertador. “I’m hoping that people become conscious of the need to maintain the process,” he said, referring to the socialist movement started by Mr. Maduro’s predecessor, President Hugo Chávez, and continued by Mr. Maduro.
Mr. Atencio acknowledged that the country was passing through a tenuous, challenging moment but said that changes in political systems were always hard and required perseverance. Parroting Mr. Maduro, he blamed foreign governments, including sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, for the country’s economic crisis.
“But we’re going to resist until the last combatant dies,” Mr. Atencio said. “And that last combatant has not yet been born.”