Viet Nam News
CARACAS — President Nicolas Maduro was declared winner of Venezuela’s election Sunday in a poll rejected as invalid by his rivals, who immediately called for fresh elections to be held later this year.
Reeling under a devastating economic crisis, only 46 per cent of voters turned out to cast ballots in an election boycotted by the opposition, but one that hands Maduro a second term until 2025.
"We do not recognise this electoral process as valid, as true," his main rival Henri Falcon told a news conference, even before the result was announced.
"For us, there were no elections. We have to have new elections in Venezuela."
Maduro hailed his victory for another six-year term in a speech to thousands of cheering supporters outside the official Miraflores Palace in Caracas.
"Never before has a presidential candidate taken 68 per cent of the popular vote," he said, to applause.
"We won again! We triumphed again! We are the force of history turned into a permanent popular victory," said Maduro.
The official result gave Maduro 67.7 per cent of the vote, with Falcon a distant second at 21.2 per cent. In the last opinion polls before the vote, the pair were running neck-and-neck.
Third-placed Javier Bertucci, an evangelist preacher who polled around 11 per cent, joined in the call for new elections.
Wearing a bright red shirt that identifies him as a "Chavista," the president arrived early at a Caracas polling station along with his wife, former prosecutor Cilia Flores.
"Your vote decides: ballots or bullets, motherland or colony, peace or violence, independence or subordination," said the 55-year-old former bus driver and union leader.
The comments reflected previous ones by the socialist leader that Venezuela is the victim of an "economic war" waged by the conservative opposition and outside powers such as the United States aimed at toppling him.
As the polls opened, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the "sham" election.
Small queues of voters, mostly Maduro supporters, formed at some polling stations, but others appeared half empty, AFP correspondents reported from several cities.
Falcon, a 56-year-old former army officer who failed to gain the endorsement of the main opposition, accused the government of coercing voters.
In a news conference held before the official result announcement, he pointed particularly to so-called "red points" -- street stalls set up by the ruling Socialists near polling stations -- allegedly to offer handouts in exchange for votes.
The former governor of Venezuela’s Lara state also said polling centers had remained open after the scheduled closing time, and that his monitors were expelled from some of them.
Hundreds of Venezuelans took to the streets in several Latin American capitals, including Bogota, Buenos Aires and Lima -- as well as in Madrid – to denounce the vote.
The biggest protest was in Chile’s capital Santiago, where more than 1,000 demonstrated against the election. Chile granted 73,000 visas to Venezuelans fleeing the country last year.
The Chilean government rejected a result that "lacks all legitimacy and does not meet any of the minimum and necessary requirements to be a democratic and transparent election, in accordance with international standards." — AFP