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venezuela elections 2015

Venezuela’s electoral authority has confirmed that the opposition has won a key two-thirds majority, enabling it to challenge President Nicolas Maduro.

The opposition said it would work to release jailed opposition leaders and address the country’s economic crisis.

Nicolas Maduro has announced a cabinet reshuffle but vowed to veto any amnesty law for jailed politicians.

The election result is the worst for the Socialist movement founded by late leader Hugo Chavez in 1999.

The majority means the Democratic Unity coalition can now make sweeping changes, including calling a possible referendum on Nicolas Maduro’s leadership.

It also wants the release of one of its leaders, Leopoldo Lopez, who was given a 13-year prison sentence for inciting violence – a charge critics say was politically motivated.Venezuela elections opposition supermajority

However, in a TV address, President Nicolas Maduro said he would block any amnesty law: “The murderers have to be prosecuted and have to pay.”

Nicolas Maduro said his Socialist Party would hold an “extraordinary congress” to find out what went wrong at the election.

The opposition meanwhile warned of looming food shortages for Venezuelans.

“We urge the government to stop crying and start working,” opposition leader Jesus Torrealba said.

“We’re just a few weeks away from a very serious problem in terms of food,” he added.

Venezuela’s opposition coalition has won a majority of seats in the National Assembly, overturning nearly two decades of dominance by the Socialists of President Nicolas Maduro.

Five hours after polling ended, the National Electoral Council announced the opposition had won 99 seats.

President Nicolas Maduro has admitted defeat, recognizing “these adverse results”.

It is the worst-ever defeat for the leftist movement founded by former leader Hugo Chavez in 1999.

The Socialists have gained 46 seats, with another 22 yet to be declared.

Results arrived much later than expected, five hours after polls closed. Fireworks erupted over the capital, Caracas, soon after.Venezuela elections results 2015

Among the campaign issues were chronic food shortages of staples – such as milk, rice, coffee, sugar, corn flour and cooking oil.

Venezuela has been hit hard by the continuing low price of oil, its main export. It also has the continent’s highest inflation rate.

President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the situation on an “economic war” waged by the opposition.

“We have come with our morals and our ethics to recognize these adverse results, to accept them and to say to our Venezuela that the constitution and democracy have triumphed.

“We have lost a battle today, but the struggle to build a new society is just beginning,” Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president and head of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, added.

Henrique Capriles, a leading opposition figure in the Democratic Unity Roundtable and a former presidential challenger, tweeted: “The results are as we hoped. Venezuela has won. It’s irreversible.”

Jesus Torrealba, opposition coalition chief, said: “Venezuela wanted a change and that change came. A new majority expressed itself and sent a clear and resounding message.”

The opposition alliance, made up of centrist and conservative parties, is confident of ultimately taking at least 112 seats after 16 years of socialist control.

The results also give stronger momentum to the opposition should it wish to call a referendum on Nicolas Maduro’s future. This could take place only when his presidency reaches its halfway point in April next year.

However, under Venezuela’s presidential system the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) will still be a powerful force, as it controls many municipalities.

The next presidential election is due in April 2019.

Venezuelans are voting in congressional elections that are seen as the first serious challenge to the governing socialists in 17 years.

According to opinion polls, a broad opposition coalition could capitalize on widespread frustration over food shortages, inflation and crime.

Nicolas Maduro’s governing PSUV, however, retains wide support in rural areas, and will continue to control the presidency.

Voters will be electing all 167 National Assembly members.

Even if the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable captures a majority in the assembly, its power will be limited.

However, a win for the coalition – which includes center-left and centre-right groups – could mark a potential political shift in Venezuela.

The elections are widely regarded as a referendum on President Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor of the late president Hugo Chavez, and the party’s socialist policies.Venezuela elections 2015

The opposition accuses the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) of mismanaging the economy and of squandering the country’s oil wealth.

Nicolas Maduro says his party defends the interests of ordinary Venezuelans and wants to complete Hugo Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution”.

“They say they’re winning in the polls – it’s the same story of the last 17 years,” Nicolas Maduro said at one election rally.

“Let them win in the polls, we will win in the streets.”

Among the concerns are chronic food shortages of staples – such as milk, rice, coffee, sugar, corn flour and cooking oil.

Nicolas Maduro has blamed the situation on an “economic war” waged against his government by the opposition.

The opposition also accuses the government of increasing authoritarianism.

Earlier this year opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was given a 13-year prison sentence for inciting violence – a charge critics say was politically motivated.

Venezuela has invited election monitors from regional body UNASUR but has rejected those from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the EU.

Venezuelan educator and opposition leader Manuel Rosales has been arrested on his return to the country after 6 years of self-imposed exile.

Manuel Rosales, who said he wanted to take part in December’s parliamentary elections, was detained shortly after landing in the city of Maracaibo.

The politician ran against the late President Hugo Chavez in 2006.

Manuel Rosales, 62, fled to Peru in 2009 amid corruption allegations, which he says are politically motivated.

He was arrested on October 15 as he arrived at Maracaibo from the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. He is expected to appear in court in Caracas shortly.

Manuel Rosales is charged with corruption during his term as governor of Zulia state between 2000 and 2008.

He had announced on October 9 that he was planning to return to Venezuela.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Shortly before departing from Aruba Manuel Rosales posted a picture of him boarding.

He tweeted: “With God and the Virgin Mary, preparing to go to Venezuela to meet my people again.”

Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz had warned that there was an arrest warrant against him.

Venezuelans go to the polls on December 6 for the first parliamentary elections since President Nicolas Maduro was elected in 2013.

Venezuela is facing a serious economic crisis, which the opposition blames on failed socialist policies of Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro.

The government says Venezuela has been hit by a sharp drop in international oil prices, but it also accuses powerful groups of boycotting the economy to destabilize Nicolas Maduro.

Several other opposition leaders have also been detained since last year.

Last month, prominent opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was found guilty of inciting violence during protests in 2014 in which 43 people – from both sides of the political divide – were killed.

Leopoldo Lopez was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison.

The US government and the UN have called for the release of the opposition politicians.