Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claims sweeping win in the congressional elections which were boycotted by the most influential opposition politicians and widely criticized internationally as being fraudulent.
Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela and allied parties captured 67 percent of seats in the National Assembly in the elections. Just 31 percent of the 20 million registered voters participated in the election.
The triumph means Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party expanded a control of the National Assembly, the only official body held by the opposition.
The win gives Maduro control of the last chief branch of government outside his grasp.
“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.”
The National Assembly had been led by the United States-backed politician Juan Guaido, who has pressed to overthrow Maduro for nearly two years.
Guaido said that the boycotting of the election was “a rejection of the dictatorship,” and called on his supporters to participate in a December 12 consultation that will ask citizens whether they reject the results and want a change of government.
“They have imprisoned us, they have tortured us and they have assassinated us, but here we are and here we will be until we see our Venezuela lead to a free, democratic country without dictatorship,” he said.
The nation has been suffocated by runaway inflation, paralysed in endless queues for petrol, lacking water and gas supplies and afflicted by sudden power cuts.
Since November 2019, inflation has reached 4,000 percent. More than five million people have fled the country in recent years, the world’s largest migration after that of war-torn Syria.
The International Monetary Fund projects a 25-percent decline this year in Venezuela’s gross domestic product or GDP, while hyperinflation diminishes the value of its currency, the bolivar, now worth less than a millionth of a dollar on the free market.
Venezuela has also been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, the European Union also said it did not consider Venezuela’s parliamentary election as free or fair and rejected the result, calling on Maduro to chart a path towards national reconciliation.
Maduro, the hand-picked successor to the late President Hugo Chavez, won a second term in 2018. But dozens of nations allied with the US reject his legitimacy, alleging the vote was rigged and his most popular challengers were banned.