About 20 percent of Venezuela's registered voters ignored stiff penalties and abstained from casting ballots in this week's national elections, authorities said.

The projected abstention rate in Sunday's national election was the highest ever in Venezuela's 30-year democracy.Penalties for not voting include six-month bans on foreign travel, public sector employment, university registration and registering trademarks, according to the Law of Suffrage.

President-elect Carlos Andres Perez of the center-left Democratic Action Party claimed the high abstention rate is still favorable compared to "normal" abstention of 25 to 30 percent in democratic nations.

"In U.S. elections around 50 percent of the electorate votes, but that doesn't mean Americans don't want democracy. I do not think there is any weariness of any sort with the (democratic) system," he said.