The chavista regime in Venezuela retook control of the country's national assembly as expected in an election on Sunday that was boycotted by most opposition parties and unrecognised by much of the international community.
The outcome means that as of January 5th, when the new 277 deputies are sworn in, all of the country’s institutions will be in the hands of the increasingly authoritarian president Nicolás Maduro.
Despite an aggressive government campaign to boost participation, only 31 per cent of voters took part in the poll, according to the chavista-dominated electoral commission. It said Mr Maduro’s coalition secured 67.6 per cent of the vote. He greeted the result as “a great victory”.
Among those elected to the new legislature were first lady Cilia Flores and Diosdado Cabello, one of the strongmen within the president's United Socialist Party. At a campaign event last week he had warned "anyone who does not vote does not eat".
Crimes against humanity
The government has long been accused of using access to food as a means of exerting political control. Aid agencies estimate that one in four Venezuelans now need humanitarian assistance. Earlier this year, Mr Maduro and other senior figures were accused of human rights violations by the United Nations, which said some of the effort to suppress political opposition amounted to crimes against humanity.
Several opposition parties only took part in the election after the chavista-controlled supreme court imposed new leaderships amenable to the regime on them. The main opposition dismissed the election as a “farce” and is conducting a parallel referendum to rival the government’s poll.
After the results, opposition leader Juan Guaidó said even the claimed 31 per cent participation rate was exaggerated, writing on social media: “The dictatorship is evident.”
The head of the outgoing assembly, Mr Guaidó declared himself interim president following Mr Maduro’s disputed victory in 2018’s presidential election. He has since been recognised by over 50 countries including a majority of Latin American states but has failed to break chavismo’s grip on power.
The Lima Group of 16 western hemisphere nations seeking a solution to the Venezuelan crisis issued a statement calling on the international community "to join in the rejection of these fraudulent elections". The European Union has also refused to recognise the vote.
Since succeeding Hugo Chávez as president in 2013, Mr Maduro has overseen the collapse of the economy of what was once South America’s richest country. After years of corruption and mismanagement, the country’s oil industry is in ruins and this year alone inflation is estimated to be running at over 3,000 per cent. With the local bolivar now worthless, chavismo’s supposedly socialist Bolivarian Revolution has overseen the increasing dollarisation of the economy.
An estimated five million Venezuelans have fled the country in recent years in the world's biggest refugee crisis after Syria.