Venezuela’s electoral council says President Nicolás Maduro has won re-election, in a vote marred by an opposition boycott and claims of foul play.
Early reports said turnout for the vote was unusually low – only slightly more than 30% of electorate
The main opposition candidate, Henri Falcón rejected the result soon after the polls closed, calling it invalid.
“We do not recognize this electoral process as valid… we have to have new elections in Venezuela,” he said
Mr Falcón earlier alleged that the vote had been rigged in Mr Maduro’s favour, by abuse of the scanning of state-issued benefits card – used for accessing food.
Government officials said the polls were “free and fair” but most of the opposition boycotted the vote.
The administration of the US President Donald Trump has said it will not recognise the result of the elections. Posting on Twitter ahead of the vote, the US mission to the United Nations called the process an “insult to democracy”.
The elections were supposed to be held in December 2018, but the National Constituent Assembly, made up exclusively of Mr Maduro’s supporters, brought them forward.
The opposition Democratic Unity coalition said the elections were moved to take advantage of divisions within the coalition. Its two biggest candidates were also barred from running, and others have fled the country.
There are a handful of minor candidates but only Mr Falcón, a governor under late President Hugo Chávez, was seen as a viable alternative to President Maduro. He came from the same socialist party as President Maduro, but left in 2010 to join the opposition.
Mr Falcón, who ran despite the boycott, has said he believes the majority of Venezuelans want to remove Mr Maduro from office.
The rest of the opposition, however, has frowned on his breaking ranks – with some even branding him a traitor.
But is the election legitimate or not?
Part of the reason for the opposition boycott was the outcome of elections for state governorships last year. Mr Maduro’s party won 17 of 23 states – and his opponents cried foul.
That was after the company that makes Venezuela’s voting machines said, in July last year, that the figures had been tampered with during the controversial election of the constituent assembly.
It does not help that the electoral commission is mostly made up of government supporters – like the powerful constituent assembly and the supreme court.
Mr Maduro’s camp has claimed that the election was a fair process.
International observers including the EU and US suggested they might impose sanctions on Venezuela if democracy was undermined, while some of Venezuela’s Latin American neighbours said they might not officially recognise the outcome.
What about ordinary Venezuelan people?
An economic crisis in the country has created an inflation rate measured at several hundred percent, while the economy has shrunk dramatically every year, creating a shortage of basics like food and medicine.
In some poorer parts of the country, 70% of children suffer from malnutrition.
The national currency, the bolívar, is virtually worthless, and long queues form at banks where there simply isn’t enough cash to make purchases.
Residents carry large bags, filled with banknotes – or try to pay with cards where possible. Faced with the difficulties of life at home, hundreds of thousands have fled the country – many to neighbouring Colombia or Brazil.
Maduro wins re-election in Venezuela