Venezuela’s opposition banned from running in 2018 election

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Venezuelans look for their names on electoral rolls before voting in Sunday’s mayoral polls (AFP)

Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro, says the country’s main opposition parties are banned from taking part in next year’s presidential election.

He said only parties which took part in Sunday’s mayoral polls would be able to contest the presidency.

Leaders from the Justice First, Popular Will and Democratic Action parties boycotted the vote because they said the electoral system was biased.

President Maduro insists the Venezuelan system is entirely trustworthy.

In a speech on Sunday, he said the opposition parties had “disappeared from the political map”.

“A party that has not participated today and has called for the boycott of the elections can’t participate anymore,” he said.

In October, the three main opposition parties announced they would be boycotting Sunday’s vote, saying it only served what they called President Maduro’s dictatorship.

President Maduro says his party won more than 300 of the 335 mayoral races being contested. The election board put turn out at 47%.

Venezuela has been mired in a worsening economic crisis characterised by shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation.

Mr Maduro said he was following the criteria set by the National Constituent Assembly in banning opposition parties from contesting next year’s election.

But the assembly, which came into force in August and has the ability to rewrite the constitution, is made up exclusively of government loyalists. Opposition parties see it as a way for the president to cling to power.

The presidential vote had been scheduled for December 2018, but analysts say it could now be brought forward.

Despite its rich natural resources many Venezuelans live in poverty. This led President Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, to style himself as a champion of the poor during his 14 years in office.

Now the country is starkly divided between supporters of President Maduro and those who want an end to the Socialist Party’s 18 years in government.

Supporters of Mr Maduro say his party has lifted many people out of poverty, but critics say it has eroded Venezuela’s democratic institutions and mismanaged its economy. (BBC)

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