Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro has claimed a second six-year term at the helm of his crisis-hit nation amid international condemnation and allegations of vote buying.
As results came out, Maduro supporters reportedly let off fireworks in poor Caracas neighbourhoods and danced to Latin pop around the downtown Miraflores presidential palace.
Addressing crowds of supporters outside the presidential palace in Caracas on Sunday night, Maduro hailed the “impeccable electoral process” that had returned him to power with 67.7% of the vote, saying he ‘Loved Venezuelans more’.
“This was a historic day! The day of a heroic victory! The day of a beautiful victory – of a truly popular victory,” Maduro declared.
“The whole of Venezuela has triumphed! Democracy has triumphed! Peace has triumphed! Constitutionality has triumphed [These were] elections that were constitutional, legitimate and legal,” he insisted, before claiming: “We have a president of the people! A working president!”
Venezuela’s election board put turnout at just 46.1%, way down from the 80% registered at the last presidential vote in 2013, due to a boycott by Venezuela’s mainstream opposition.
Head of Venezuela’s electoral commission, Tibisay Lucena, told reporters Maduro had received more than 5.8m votes compared to the 1.8m of his nearest rival, Henri Falcón.
But even before Maduro’s victory speech, domestic opponents and much of the international community had denounced the contentious poll.
Henri Falcón claimed widespread vote buying and electoral irregularities meant the election was “illegitimate”. “We do not regonize this electoral process as valid,” he told reporters. “As far as we are concerned there has been no election. There must be new elections in Venezuela.”
“All Venezuelans know what happened today,” tweeted Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost to Maduro in the 2013 election and was subsequently barred from running again.
“Our beloved Venezuela must have truly free and democratic elections where the will of our People is reflected in the result.”
The attacks nonetheless, Maduro vowed to work swiftly to stablize his country’s economy, amidst a catastrophic economic meltdown that saw the economy shrink by 13% last year and inflation projected at a staggering 13,000%.