Maduro Claims Victory in Controversial Vote

Maduro Claims Victory in Controversial VoteMaduro Claims Victory in Controversial Vote

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has claimed victory in an election to pick a controversial new constitution-writing body that prompted deadly violence and international condemnation.

Venezuela's National Electoral Council announced on Sunday that more than eight million people voted to grant Maduro's ruling Socialist Party virtually unlimited powers with a constituent assembly.

The turnout was more than double the estimates of both the government's political opponents and independent experts, Al Jazeera reported.

"We have a constituent assembly," Maduro said in a speech to hundreds of supporters in central Caracas after the electoral authority put the voter turnout at 41.5%.

"It is the biggest vote the revolution has ever scored in its 18-year history."

Maduro was referring to the year his mentor Hugo Chavez came to power.

The voting started at 6 am local time on Sunday with almost 20 million Venezuelans registered to cast their ballots, according to Telesur, a pro-government pan-Latin American media network.

The final count was met with mockery and anger from members of the opposition, who said they believed between two million and three million people voted.

The opposition parties had boycotted the polls, which they say were aimed at consolidating Maduro's power.

Earlier in the day, at least 10 people, including an election candidate, were killed as anti-Maduro protesters clashed with the police.

Shootings at protests killed a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old in the western state of Tachira. A soldier was also shot dead there.

The death toll included a 30-year-old regional leader of a youth opposition party in the northeast town of Cumana and two protesters in the western state of Merida.

Anti-Maduro activists wearing hoods or masks erected barricades on roads and scuffles broke out with security forces who moved in quickly to disperse the demonstrators.

"The 'emperor' Donald Trump wanted to halt the Venezuelan people's right to vote," Maduro said as he voted at 6am in a low-income area of Caracas.

Maduro, elected in 2013, has faced months of protests for presiding over a debilitating economic crisis that has seen a high inflation rate and shortages of food and other basic amenities.

Several regional governments, including the US, have voiced opposition to the controversial election.

The US condemned the election and threatened to impose new "strong and swift" sanctions.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, on Sunday called the election a "sham" and "step towards dictatorship", adding that the US will not accept "illegitimate government".

To show the scale of public anger, the Venezuelan opposition earlier this month organized an unofficial referendum over Maduro's plan.

More than seven million voters rejected the constituent assembly and voted in favor of early elections.

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