US says Venezuela vote ′neither free nor fair′ | News | DW | 16.10.2017
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US says Venezuela vote 'neither free nor fair'

The Venezuelan opposition had expected to win Sunday's regional elections. But after the ruling Socialists Party's shock victory, the US has denounced the vote as illegitimate.

The United States on Monday condemned Venezuelan regional elections that ended with a shocking victory on Sunday for President Nicolas Maduro.

"We condemn the lack of free and fair elections yesterday in Venezuela. The voice of the Venezuelan people was not heard," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

Candidates from Maduro's ruling Socialist party won 17 out of 23 state governorships in Sunday's election, while candidates from the opposition Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) coalition took only five states. One state was still undecided.

Opinion polls prior to the election had predicted that the opposition would win back control of majority of the state governorships.

Read more: Who makes up Venezuela's political opposition?

Nauert said the election's lack of transparency and government manipulation made the results illegitimate.

"Our previously stated concerns were unfortunately realized: lack of independent, credible international observers; lack of technical audit for the National Electoral Council's (CNE) tabulation; last minute changes to polling station locations without public notice; manipulation of ballot layouts; and limited availability of voting machines in opposition neighborhoods," she said.

Washington, she said, would continue using its economic and diplomatic power to help Venezuelans "restore their democracy" for "as long as the Maduro regime conducts itself as an authoritarian dictatorship."

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert

Heather Nauert said the US would continue to pressure Venezuela after Sunday's vote

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also criticized the election, saying on Monday that President Maduro had used "voter intimidation, manipulation, and obstruction" to ensure a favorable result and that an "audit of the electoral process" was needed.

The vote was the first involving the MUD since 2015 when the opposition coalition won a majority of seats in the country's parliament, the National Assembly.

Maduro however created an all-powerful constituent assembly in July that has been staffed with government loyalists and is tasked with rewriting the constitution.

Venezuela has been in a four-year political and economic crisis that has left millions facing shortages of basic goods, such as food and medicine.

amp/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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