Maduro claims a sweeping victory in Venezuela’s boycotted elections

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro on Monday claimed a sweeping victory in parliamentary elections that were boycotted by a weakened opposition, news wires reported.

With more than 82% of the votes counted, Maduro and his Socialist allies won just over 67%, according to the Venezuelan broadcaster Telesur. Opposition parties received nearly 32%. A win for Maduro's Socialist Party would place the country's only opposition-controlled government institution into his hands.

The main opposition parties boycotted the elections, headed by opposition leader and parliamentary speaker Juan Guaido who entered a power struggle with Maduro in January 2019. Dozens of countries recognize him as Venezuela's interim president. "The dictatorship does not want to conduct an election, but destroy the hopes of a country," Guaido wrote on Twitter.

Telesur put the voter turnout at around 31%. More than 20 million people were eligible to elect 277 members of the National Assembly, an increase of 110 lawmakers compared to the outgoing parliament.

Guaido is seen as weakened after his confrontational strategy against Maduro failed to oust the president. He is now also expected to lose control of the National Assembly.

Maduro, who won a second term in 2018 elections widely criticized as undemocratic, has presided over an economic meltdown - including hyperinflation, acute goods shortages and a plunge in oil production - which has driven about 5m Venezuelans to flee abroad. He has also cracked down on the opposition, with UN investigators accusing the government of grave human rights violations, including thousands of killings by security forces.

The European Union refused to send observers to monitor the vote, which the United States and the Organization of American States also criticized as lacking democratic guarantees. Canada said on Sunday it would not accept the election results, as did Colombia.

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