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VENEZUELA

Venezuela's opposition falls short in lunge for new seats

Photo: AFP
3 min

Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro held key cities in Venezuela’s mayoral elections on Sunday but failed to deliver the crushing victory they had sought to try to undermine the hand-picked successor of the late Hugo Chavez.

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Venezuela’s opposition retained its grip on the country’s two largest cities in municipal elections on Sunday, but President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government maintained the upper hand across the country despite deepening economic woes and growing discontent.

With results in from 75% of the nation’s 337 mayoral races, the ruling party and allies had claimed a combined 49.2 percent of votes, compared with the opposition coalition and its partners’ 42.7 support, according to election authorities.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles had called on the local ballots to be a referendum on the goverment's overall record and some of his allies had predicted a symbolic defeat of “Chavismo” under Maduro, who came to power in April.

“I did everything humanly possible,” a visibly tired Capriles told reporters after the results were unveiled. “Remember that Venezuela does not have a single owner. A divided country needs dialogue.”

The Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA), a think tank, said the elections gave Maduro some much-needed impetus.

“Compared to where [Maduro] was two months ago, with a government in a tail spin, he now looks like he is in control, having gotten past a major hurdle. The opposition clearly did not get the big plebiscite win that it sought,” the group said on its website.

‘Sale’ on plasma TVs

In a triumphant speech late Sunday, Maduro dedicated his victory to the late President Hugo Chavez and promised more measures to protect the poor, including a drive to keep food prices low.

Maduro, 51, has faced compounding economic problems, including slowing growth, record-high inflation and shortages of food staples and basic goods.

But an aggressive campaign launched last month to force businesses to slash prices proved popular with consumers, especially the poor, and is credited with having helped Maduro’s candidates on Sunday.

Among the most popular measures was the seizure of dozens of retailers and the slashing of prices on plasma TVs, refrigerators and other appliances.

“Maduro has gained some breathing room but 2014 is guaranteed to be a difficult year,” WOLA warned. “There are still very fundamental economic problems. The measures that Maduro rode to this electoral victory are short term and will likely worsen the economy in the medium term.”

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters, AP)

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