World News

Venezuela holds National Assembly poll amid opposition boycott


Turnout is predicted to be low as opposition supporters are urged to stay at home

Votes are being counted in Venezuela’s legislative elections, which are set to hand socialist President Nicolás Maduro control of the only official body still controlled by the opposition.

Most opposition parties are boycotting the polls for the National Assembly.

The boycott is being led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó who has been in a two-year power struggle with Mr Maduro.

The US and more than 50 other countries recognise Mr Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has described Sunday’s poll as “a fraud and a sham”.

“The results announced by the illegitimate Maduro regime will not reflect the will of the Venezuelan people,” he posted on Twitter.

The Organization of American States (OAS) has also said it will not recognise the result.

After casting his vote on Sunday, Mr Maduro said the election would mark the beginning of an era of recovery for Venezuela.

President Nicolás Maduro shows his ballot as he votes at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Caracas, Venezuela, December 6, 2020President Nicolás Maduro shows his ballot as he votes at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Caracas, Venezuela, December 6, 2020President Maduro said the National Assembly had been responsible for “the plague of sanctions, cruelty, pain and suffering”

“We’ve had the patience, the wisdom to wait for this hour, to wait for this day and get rid of that disastrous National Assembly,” he said.

Referring to the recent US elections, he called on the opposition to “take advantage of Donald Trump’s defeat” and join him in urging Joe Biden’s incoming administration to abandon sanctions against the country.

Analysis box by Katy Watson, South America correspondentAnalysis box by Katy Watson, South America correspondentAnalysis box by Katy Watson, South America correspondent

Up until now, the National Assembly has been the only remaining branch of government in opposition control – but that’s set to change on Sunday. The result is a foregone conclusion because the opposition isn’t taking part.

Juan Guaidó, the current head of the National Assembly, and the man that for nearly two years has claimed a constitutional right to lead the country because of fraudulent elections, will be out of a job – and his future uncertain.

He insists he’ll remain in Venezuela to fight the government of Nicolás Maduro but people here seem tired of politics and many have lost faith both in the government and the opposition. All they want, with an economy in constant freefall, is for their lives to get better – and politicians haven’t succeeded so far.

Story continues

Turnout was predicted to be low, with witnesses reporting many polling stations empty or with few people in the queue. The longest queues in the capital Caracas were in Socialist Party strongholds, AFP news agency reported.

Precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were in place, with voters required to wear masks and observe distancing inside polling stations. Venezuela has reported more than 104,000 cases of coronavirus and 916 deaths since being hit by the pandemic.

Polls were due to close officially at 18.00 (22.00 GMT) but election officials extended voting for another hour “while there are voters in the queue”.

A recent opinion poll indicated that 62.2% of Venezuelans “do not support” either Mr Maduro or Mr Guaidó.

A pro-government supporter dressed in a Venezuelan flag jacket cycles through the city with a sign that reads "VOTA"A pro-government supporter dressed in a Venezuelan flag jacket cycles through the city with a sign that reads "VOTA"Mr Maduro urged his supporters to turn out to vote in the election

Venezuela’s 277-seat National Assembly has been controlled by the opposition since 2015.

As the legislative assembly it would normally pass legislation and approve the government’s budget but it became sidelined in 2017 when President Maduro convened a National Constituent Assembly.

The National Constituent Assembly is made up exclusively of government supporters and its powers supersede those of the National Assembly.

Mr Guaidó called on voters to boycott the vote on grounds that there were no “free and fair” conditions for holding elections.

He told AFP last week that Mr Maduro wanted to wipe out all semblance of democracy.

“Maduro’s objective isn’t even to gain legitimacy,” he said.

Mr Guaidó has already announced that he will hold a week-long “popular consultation”, a kind of referendum, from Monday in which he will ask Venezuelans whether they accept the results of the National Assembly election.

Although Mr Guaidó has been recognised as interim leader by more than 50 nations, Mr Maduro retains the loyalty of most of the military and important allies such as China and Russia.

Under the Maduro government, the economy has collapsed and shortages of food and medicines have become widespread.

According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), there are currently about 4.5 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela worldwide.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
Close

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker