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Venezuelan election

Venezuelan election turnout 'manipulated,' says poll-assist firm

Venezuela's election had put participation at 8.1 million. But Smartmatic, the firm that provided its voting technology, said this number is significantly off.

President Maduro polling behind a brown cardboard screen(Reuters)

President Maduro voting last Sunday. Smartmatic says turnout was 'manipulated'

Smartmatic head Antonio Mugica told a London press conference that his firm, which has served Venezuela since 2004, that the estimated difference between the actual and announced turnout was "at least 1 million votes."

"We know, without any doubt, that the turnout of the recent election for a National Constituent Assemble was manipulated," said Mugica whose firm serves numerous countries around the world.

Read: What are Venezuela's proposed constitutional changes?

Venezuela's National Election Council described the claims as "irresponsible, adding that Smartmatic's estimates had "no grounding in the data" that was anyway "exclusively" held by the council.

Tibisay Lucena, president of the Venezuelan election authority, told reporters: "This is an unprecedented opinion from a firm whose only role in the electoral process is to provide certain services and technical support that had no bearing on the results."

On state television, Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami said Sunday's results had been reviewed and the 545 members of the new constitutional assembly would soon take the reins of government - superseding the opposition-majority National Assembly.

Arrests prompt outcry

Leftist President Nicolas Maduro's government has also faced mounting criticism from foreign nations over Sunday's poll, as well as Monday night's subsequent arrests of opposition leaders, Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez.

The European Union on Wednesday said it would not recognize the new assembly, following suit with the US, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina. European Parliament head Antonio Tajani said the EU should consider freezing assets and travel bans on Venezuelan government members, while European Commission spokeswoman Catherine Ray said a "whole range of actions is [being] discussed."

Venezuela Oppositionspolitiker Antonio Ledezma (Imago/Zumapress/El Nacional/E. Morgado)

Forcibly detained: opposition politician Antonio Ledezma

Read - Five things to understand about oil-rich, cash-poor Venezuela

Visiting the Balkans, US Vice President Mike Pence said Washington would "hold Maduro personally responsible for the health and safety" of Ledezma and Lopez. Following Sunday's vote, the US slapped financial sanctions on President Nicolas Maduro, freezing all his assets subject to US jurisdiction and barring Americans from doing business with him.

Maduro had called Sunday's vote for the proposed constitutional assembly after weeks of protests fed byanger at his government over food shortages, triple-digit inflation, high crime and alleged mismanagement that have resulted in at least 120 deaths.

Anti-government activists clash with security forces during a protest against the elections for a Constituent Assembly proposed by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on July 30, 2017.

Violence has worsened in Venezuela with the government's latest move to push through constitutional reform

Opposition-led assembly visited

French, British, Spanish and Mexican ambassadors visited Venezuela's opposition-majority National Assembly on Tuesday to meet with its legislators.

After they left, members of pro-government motorcycle gangs surrounded the building.

Also on Tuesday, two judges - 33 among whom in July were named by the opposition-controlled assembly to Supreme Court posts - sought protection at the Chilean embassy in Caracas.

Watch video 04:28

Venezuela arrests - Antonietta Ledezma speaks with DW

ipj/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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