Venezuela regional elections: Maduro′s party takes most states | News | DW | 16.10.2017
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Venezuela regional elections: Maduro's party takes most states

Venezuela's election body said President Nicolas Maduro's ruling party won a majority of governorships in Sunday's regional election. The opposition, which was expected to head for a landslide, is crying foul.

Venezuela's National Electoral Council said ruling Socialist party candidates won in 17 out of 23 states in the country's regional elections on Sunday.

The opposition, which opinion polls showed was expected to win back control of majority of the state governorships, took only five of the states. 

Just before the results were made public, the opposition, which was hoping for a major victory over Maduro, said it had "serious suspicions and doubts over the results" and that the pro-government election board was about to announce results in favor of Maduro's ruling party.

Maduro's Socialist Party, which controls 20 state governorships, was expected to face a backlash in the elections for pushing Venezuela towards an economic meltdown that has led to crippling food and medical shortages and a soaring inflation.

The election outcome has come as yet another blow for the beleaguered opposition that failed to unseat Maduro after violent protests earlier this year that led to at least 120 deaths and thousands of arrests.

Read more: Venezuela: Former Attorney General Luisa Ortega wants to see Maduro in court

Hurdles galore

Earlier in the day, voters could be seen lining up to cast their ballot at several places even after the official poll closing time of 6 p.m. local time (2200 UTC). More than half the registered voters are expected to have voted, though participation appeared to be lower than in past presidential and congressional elections.

The opposition accused the pro-government National Electoral Council, which relocated 200 voting centers on security grounds, of attempting to suppress turnout in its strongholds by requiring voters to walk long distances, sometimes in unsafe areas.

The election board also refused to remove from the ballot names of opposition politicians who lost in primaries, likely confusing voters.

There were also technical glitches such as electrical failures.

The president of the election board, Tibisay Lucena, played down reports of irregularities. Lucena said problems with electricity and voting machines have been few and far between.

Read more: Who makes up Venezuela's political opposition

'We are no dictatorship'

President Maduro on Sunday released a taped message, calling on Venezuelans to vote in the elections and show to the world that their country was a vibrant democracy.

"They have said we are a dictatorship. No. We are a rebellious, egalitarian people," Maduro said. "Democracy has triumphed."

Opposition leaders mocked Maduro's suggestion.

"We are fighting to recover our democracy," said opposition leader Henrique Capriles. "Democracy is not just voting."

Maduro has warned that the newly-elected opposition governors will have to swear allegiance to a new constituent assembly elected in July.

The opposition considers the entirely pro-government legislative superbody illegal. The new assembly supersedes all other institutions, including the opposition-controlled congress.

ap/rc (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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