Opposition banned from 2018 election

Lester Mason
December 11, 2017

President Nicolas Maduro is pushing Venezuela deeper into "dictatorship" by declaring that opposition parties will be barred from next year's presidential election, the US State Department charged Monday.

Pro-government candidates won more than 300 of the 335 local elections held in Venezuela on Sunday, but the results were affected by the absence of opposition candidates in numerous cities where there was a vote.

Around 47 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Sunday's voting marked the last nationwide elections before next year's presidential race when Maduro is expected to seek another term despite his steep unpopularity.

Three of the four biggest opposition parties said they boycotted Sunday's mayoral races in protest of what they called a rigged electoral system.

"The imperialists have tried to set fire to Venezuela to take our riches", Maduro said.

The mayoral elections follow a crushing defeat of opposition candidates in October's gubernatorial elections, where anti-Maduro candidates won just five of 23 races amid allegations of official vote-buying and other irregularities. An alliance of parties have labeled Maduro a dictator and refused to participate in the mayoral races.

Political analysts say they doubt the opposition can rally behind a challenger to Maduro next year.

"These were absolutely predictable results", local pollster Luis Vicente Leon said on Twitter. "Either that or simply not compete in 2018". That was down from 58 percent in municipal elections four years ago. The country holds the world's largest oil reserves, but it has been battered by the fall in crude prices and low production.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Maria Corina Machado said the elections are "a null event" called by the invalid ANC, organised by electoral authorities that are "fraudulent", adding that Venezuela is a territory "under military occupation".

Sunday's voting ends a turbulent year for Venezuela, a country marred by deadly street protests that left 120 dead and economic sanctions by the Trump administration that come as it seeks to refinance massive global debt. "Things can only change here after the presidential elections".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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