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Venezuela opposition rules out talks until vote recount

© Federico Parra, AFP | Opposition candidate Carlos Ocariz (centre) gives a press conference in Caracas on October 16, 2017 a day after Venezuela held regional elections.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-10-17

Venezuela's opposition said Monday it will not hold talks with the government on ending the country's bruising political and economic crisis without a full recount in regional elections it says were rigged.

"We will not take part in any exploratory talks or negotiations unless (the authorities) agree to a recount," said Angel Oropeza, a leader in the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition, after President Nicolas Maduro claimed victory in Sunday's vote, which opinion polls had put the opposition on track to win.

Opposition leaders vowed to contest the vote and called for protests, though there was no sign of the mass anti-government demonstrations that wracked Venezuela this year.

"We encountered an absolutely fraudulent system," said Carlos Ocariz, the opposition's candidate in Miranda, the nation's second most populous state where the candidate of the ruling socialist party won.

National Electoral Council officials stood by the results showing that socialist candidates won at least 17 of the country's 23 governorships despite widespread anger over a crumbling economy where triple-digit inflation, soaring crime, and food and medicine shortages make life a daily struggle for many Venezuelans.

Socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello said that if the opposition has proof of fraud they should share it.

"We're still waiting," he said.

Polarised nation

The contentious election threatened to further divide this already polarised nation and throw the strained opposition into deeper disarray. Some worried the election loss might strengthen the more radical elements of the opposition and jeopardise chances for a negotiated solution to the political conflict.

At least one of the losing opposition candidates accepted the results.

"We lost. We have to accept it," said Henri Falcon, a one-time socialist party politician who in recent years joined the opposition and lost his re-election bid as governor of Lara state. The official vote count said he trailed ruling party candidate Carmen Melendez by 18 points in the northern state.

Even before the election, the opposition was struggling against apathy and disillusionment among Venezuelans, though the official turnout figure of 61 percent seemed to indicate many people did vote.

A lot of frustration

"There is a lot of frustration," said Luis Vicente Leon, president of Datanalsis, a Caracas-based polling agency. "They (the opposition) are going to be divided between those who believe there was massive fraud, others who think it's the fault of the leadership, and some who believe 'chavismo' has come back."

That was certainly the ruling party's conclusion Monday, claiming that the victory was a profound endorsement for the socialist ideals installed by the late President Hugo Chavez nearly two decades ago.

"Chavismo is more alive than ever," said Hector Rodriguez, who defeated Ocariz in the Miranda governor's contest.

While many opposition leaders were silent Monday, Ocariz held a news conference to denounce the vote as a sham marred by last-minute shifts in voting sites, rejection of independent polling place monitors and the inclusion of already-excluded candidates on the ballots. He said there also were instances of multiple voting.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

Date created : 2017-10-17