Worries of more conflict following Venezuela vote

President Maduro has declared a sweeping victory in the election of the new legislative body, which grants his party the power to rewrite the constitution.


But much of the world — and many of his own citizens — are refusing to recognise the results, calling it an assault on democracy.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is celebrating the results of Sunday’s vote for a new Constituent Assembly as what he calls a “vote for the revolution.”

“The Venezuelan people have shown that, when fate challenges us, when the stateless oligarchy challenges us, when imperialism challenges us, it is when we make known the blood of the liberator that runs through the veins of men, women, children, youths.”

The victory means the President’s ruling socialist party will replace the current legislative body, the National Assembly, with a new, 545-member Constituent Assembly.

The new assembly, all nominated by the Maduro administration, will have virtually unlimited powers, including the ability to rewrite the constitution.

It was hoped the vote would lead to peace in Venezuela, which for months has endured violent protests that have killed more than 120 people.

But it appears to have further divided the country, with many Venezuelan citizens incensed.

“There cannot be peace when there aren’t legitimate things. Like this constitutional assembly. The constitution clearly states you have to consult the people to decide on a constitutional assembly, and they didn’t do it.”

Venezuelans have taken to the streets for months to challenge the vote.

It prompted the government to ban protests and promise punishment for anyone disrupting the electoral process.

Despite that, violence marred the voting day, as many boycotted the election and a number of polling stations were attacked.

At least 10 deaths have been reported in new rounds of clashes between protesters and police.

The country’s elections authority, the National Electoral Council, says more than 8 million people voted, more than double the turnout estimated.

But members of the opposition are disputing the count, saying only 2 to 3 million ballots were cast.

The president of the opposition-led National Assembly, Julio Borges, is calling for fresh protests.

“No-one can think that, because the government, through blood and fire, literally, his fraudulent process … no-one can think that the regime got away with it.”

And it is not just those in Venezuela refusing to recognise the results.

The United States has labelled President Maduro a “dictator,” imposing sanctions on his administration for undermining democracy.

Under the sanctions, US firms and individuals are banned from doing business with him.

US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchi says it sends a clear message to his government.

“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuela people. By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and the support for the people of Venezuela, who strive to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy.”

Latin American nations from Argentina to Mexico, which usually do not side with the United States in regional disputes, are sharply condemning the vote.

Spain and Canada have also joined in the condemnation, and the European Union says it is unlikely to acknowledge the result.

European Commission deputy chief spokeswoman Mina Andreeva says the recent violence has cast doubts over the state of Venezuela’s democracy .

“The Commission has, indeed, grave doubts as to whether the election result can be recognised. The events of the past 24 hours have reinforced the European Union’s preoccupation for the fate of democracy in Venezuela.”

Analysts say Venezuela is heading towards becoming a pariah state.

Economist Luis Vicente León is president of the Venezuelan data-polling centre Datanálisis.

He warns, while the results may consolidate President Maduro’s power, they are also likely to deepen the country’s political crisis.

“This is not a typical election. It’s an election that doesn’t resolve a problem but, rather, amplifies it. And that’s not normal.”