Candidates supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro secured control of the national congress, the electoral board said on Monday, after a parliamentary election which opposition leaders boycotted because of what they claimed was fraud.
The electoral board’s president, Indira Alfonzo, said in comments broadcast on state television that 67.6% of 5.2 million votes cast in Sunday’s election were for pro-Maduro candidates, but only 31% of eligible voters participated in the ballot.
The result returns congress – the last state institution not in the hands of the ruling Socialist Party – to Maduro’s allies despite an economy in ruins, US sanctions that stifle the OPEC nation’s oil exports and the emigration of some 5 million citizens.
Lines were short at polling places across Venezuela on Sunday as many voters heeded opposition leader Juan Guaido’s call for a boycott. In some areas, there were longer queues to buy scarce fuel than to cast a vote.
Members of the new congress will have few tools to improve the lives of people in a country where monthly salaries rarely cover the cost of a day’s groceries. Their election will also not improve Maduro’s reputation among Western nations for mismanagement and undermining human rights.
The election closes a cycle that began in 2015 when the opposition won congress by a landslide, only to see their legislative powers swept aside by pro-government courts and the creation in 2017 of an all-powerful body known as the National Constituent Assembly.
Guaido, head of the current congress, had said Venezuelans should skip the vote and participate in a December 12 consultation that will ask citizens whether they reject Sunday’s vote and want a change of government.