Maduro tightens grip on power with poll victory amid opposition boycott

Caracas, Dec 7 (efe-epa).- Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro consolidated his grip on power after his political alliance on Monday won the country’s parliamentary elections that were boycotted by the main opposition led by US-backed interim president Juan Guaido.

The National Electoral Council (CNE), whom the Venezuelan opposition accuses of favoring the government of Maduro, in a predawn announcement, said Chavismo had obtained 67.6 percent of the votes cast, or about 3.56 million.

The Popular Revolutionary Alternative coalition, which groups together opposition parties that contested the elections after the Supreme Court-appointed them new boards of directors, won 944,665 votes, or 17.95 percent, of those counted until early Monday.

Poll authorities said they had counted 82.35 percent of the votes cast on Sunday. The polling recorded a 31 percent voter turnout.

“We have had a huge electoral victory,” Maduro said. The exact number of seats won by the Gran Polo Patriótico (Great Patriotic Pole), the alliance that supports him, was not yet known.

The electoral results also establish that prominent figures of the ruling party, including ex-assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello, first lady Cilia Flores, María León, television presenter Mario Silva and Jesús Soto, won a seat in parliament.

In this scenario, Chavismo regains control of the legislature, which the opposition used to launch its offensive against the administration led by Nicolás Maduro, a 58-year-old former bus driver who has governed the South American nation since 2013.

“We have many reasons to be happy,” Cabello said during a meeting of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) after the results.

The control of parliament cements the power that the Chavismo wields in Venezuela: it controls 19 of the 23 governorates, heads 305 of the 335 mayoralties, has 227 of the 251 seats in the regional legislative assemblies.

Besides, almost 9 out of 10 councilors, who deliberate in municipal parliaments, respond to the directives of Chavismo.

But even as it gains more power, Chavismo is losing legitimacy both within and outside the country.

That has been happening since 2017 after the creation of the National Constituent Assembly, which is not recognized by the opposition and some foreign countries.

The Colombian government reiterated that it will not recognize the results of the elections, which it considers “fraudulent” and promoted by an “illegitimate regime.”

On election day, Guaidó reiterated that he did not recognize the elections, which he described as a “fraud”, and warned that the political differences between Chavismo and the opposition would deepen.

“The crisis, unfortunately, is only going to deepen,” he said in a video posted on his Twitter account.

Guaidó, a lawmaker for the coastal state of La Guaira, near Caracas, proclaimed himself the country’s interim president in January 2019 when President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for another six-year term after winning elections that were described as fraudulent by the opposition.

The United States and several countries in the region immediately recognized him.

Some 50 countries have recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

But after the boycott he called for in the legislative elections on Sunday, Guaidó will lose his position as president of the opposition-held National Assembly on Jan. 5 when the elected representatives are sworn in.

In the same message, Guaidó announced that he would invoke the principle of “constitutional continuity” to stay on as the head of the legislature.

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