President Nicolas Maduro has claimed a landslide victory in closely watched regional elections in Venezuela, based on official results that the opposition immediately rejected.
Maduro’s socialist party won governorships in 17 of the 23 states, with the opposition Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) coalition taking five and one state still undecided, the National Elections Council announced Sunday.
“We do not recognise any of the results at this time. We are facing a very serious moment for the country,” said the MUD’s campaign director Gerardo Blyde, who demanded a full audit of the vote.
“We invite the Venezuelan people to fight to change this untrustworthy electoral system,” he said.
Maduro said his government had scored an “emphatic victory” over its rivals, with his socialists still in line to take one further state where the results were still in dispute early Monday. Maduro and his allies held 20 outgoing governorships.
The results amounted to a crushing blow to the opposition which had characterized the elections as a referendum on Maduro, after months of deadly street protests earlier this year failed to unseat him.
Blyde accused the government of violating the law and imposing “abusive conditions in an unequal, unbalanced electoral process whose results do not reflect reality.”
“Neither the Venezuelan people nor the world will swallow the story that they beat us,” he said.
International powers accuse Maduro of dismantling democracy by taking over state institutions in the wake of an economic collapse caused by a fall in the price of oil, its main source of revenue.
Last week, an International Monetary Fund report said there was no end in sight to the suffering of the Venezuelan people, with food and medicine shortages intensifying a “humanitarian crisis.”