Maduro claims sweep of boycott-tainted poll, wins control of Venezuelan congress

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures as he walks into a polling station to vote during the parliamentary election in Caracas on December 6, 2020.
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures as he walks into a polling station to vote during the parliamentary election in Caracas on December 6, 2020. © Fausto Torrealba, Reuters

President Nicolas Maduro regained control of Venezuela's National Assembly after winning Sunday’s legislative election amid a boycott by his US-backed opposition rival Juan Guaido, low voter turnout and international criticism of a “sham” election.

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Hours after polls closed on Sunday, Venezuela’s election commission declared Maduro's United Socialist Party and allied parties had won 67 percent of the vote. The fraction of the opposition that participated in the legislative election obtained 18 percent, declared election commission head Indira Alfonzo.

Just 31 percent of the country's 20 million registered voters participated in the election, she said.

The results were a foregone conclusion with the vote largely shunned by opposition candidates and declared a sham by the EU, US and several other nations.

The boycott effectively handed Maduro's party control of an expanded 277-seat National Assembly – the only institution that was not in the ruling party's hands. Maduro already has the loyalty of the courts, the military and other institutions.

“We have recovered the National Assembly with the majority vote of the Venezuelan people,” Maduro said in a televised address. “It’s a great victory without a doubt for democracy.”

In a videotaped message issued Sunday, opposition leader Guaido noted the election's low voter turnout. “The truth cannot be hidden. The majority of Venezuela turned its back on the fraud that began months ago,” he said.

Despite Venezuela's political turmoil, voting took place Sunday with no apparent problems in the capital Caracas. A light flow of voters walked up to ballot boxes at Andres Bello School downtown. Voters checked their names on a wall outside, and showed identification cards inside before registering their votes on touchscreen machines, which printed paper ballots they then dropped into a box.

Supreme Court removes opposition party leaders

The Supreme Court this year appointed a new elections commission, including three members who have been sanctioned by the US and Canada, without participation of the opposition-led Assembly as the law requires.

The court also removed the leadership of three opposition parties and appointed new leaders the opposition accuses of conspiring to support Maduro.

Maduro has campaigned for his party's candidates – including his son and wife – and promised to finally silence what he identifies as the right-wing opposition, which he accuses of inciting violent protests and inviting US sanctions.

“There are those who plot coups, those who ask for military intervention,” Maduro said on Saturday night in a broadcast on state television, dismissing criticism of the election. “We say: Votes yes – war no, bullets no.”

The election comes amid uncertainty over the impending change of US administration. Like outgoing President Donald Trump, President-elect Joe Biden has called Maduro a "dictator", though it's unclear what approach he'll take toward Venezuela's political crisis.

Guaido's opposition movement is holding its own referendum over several days immediately after Sunday's election. It will ask Venezuelans whether they want to end Maduro's rule and hold new presidential elections.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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