Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party has vowed that a newly-elected legislative super-body will begin passing laws quickly after a vote that was boycotted by the opposition and slammed by foreign governments as an affront to democracy.
At least 10 people were killed in protests on Sunday by opponents of unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro, who insists the new “constituent assembly” will bring peace after four months of protests that have killed more than 120 people.
The country’s CNE elections authority said 8.1 million voters went to the polls on Sunday. The opposition estimated only 2.5 million ballots were cast.
Maduro’s critics characterised the election as a naked power grab meant to keep him in office in spite of repudiation over an economic crisis that has spurred malnutrition.
This had also left citizens struggling to obtain basic products in the nation of about 30 million people.
The vote could exacerbate those economic woes if the U.S. – the top market for Venezuelan oil – follows through on threats of economic sanctions, and could sow doubts among investors about the legitimacy of financing deals backed by the new assembly.
“The constituent assembly will start its work right away,” Diosdado Cabello, deputy Head of the Socialist Party, said at a post-election rally in Caracas.
“Good morning Venezuela. We have a constituent assembly!” he shouted. “I ask our countrymen to close ranks so that the assembly can be a place of dialogue.’’
On Sunday, the U.S. State Department vowed “strong swift actions against the architects of authoritarianism” that, according to U.S. officials, would involve sanctions on the oil sector.
Supporters of Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, hold up pictures of Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez, during an event in favour of Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly election, outside Venezuela’s embassy in Mexico City, Mexico July 30, 2017.
Allies of the Socialist Party won all 545 seats in the new assembly, which will have the power to rewrite the constitution, dissolve state institutions such as the opposition-run Congress, and sack dissident officials.
“The constitutional assembly will not resolve any of the country’s problems, it just means more crisis,” opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, said at a news conference.
Capriles called for a new round of protests at noon on Monday.
“As of tomorrow, a new stage of the struggle begins,” Capriles said.
Latin American nations from Argentina to Mexico, which are historically wary of siding with Washington in hemispheric disputes, sharply condemned the vote.
Several refused to recognise the results, while Spain and Canada joined in the condemnation.
Socialist party official Cabello hinted that the constitutional assembly would hold sessions in the same legislative palace as the existing Congress, which the opposition took over in a landslide 2015 victory.
The opposition had organised an unofficial referendum over Maduro’s plan in July, when more than seven million voters overwhelmingly rejected his constituent assembly and voted in favour of early elections. (NAN)