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Venezuelan opposition wins legislative voting in landslide

Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela’s opposition won control of the National Assembly by a landslide, delivering a major setback to the ruling party and altering the balance of power after almost 17 years of socialist rule.

The opposition coalition won at least 99 seats in the incoming 167-seat legislature, electoral authorities announced after midnight Sunday. The ruling socialist party won just 46 seats. The 19 remaining races remain up for grabs but if enough are won by the opposition it could give the coalition a two-thirds supermajority needed to strongly challenge President Nicolas Maduro’s grip on power.

The streets of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas broke out in shouts of joy, fireworks and car honks after National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena announced the partial results six hours after polls closed.

Within seconds, Maduro took to the airwaves to recognize the opposition’s win, saying that despite an adverse result Venezuela’s democracy and constitution had triumphed.

Opposition leaders meanwhile spoke in strident terms, a prelude to what’s likely to be a period of intense political fighting in a country already deeply polarized.

“The country wants change and that change is beginning today,” Jesus Torrealba, head of the Democratic Unity opposition coalition, told supporters.

The opposition victory dealt a serious blow to the socialist revolution started almost 17 years ago by the late Hugo Chavez, who until his death in 2013 had an almost-magical hold on the political aspirations of Venezuela’s long-excluded masses.

Maduro had repeatedly vowed in recent weeks to take to the streets and defend the socialist system build by his mentor Chavez if his party lost. But on Sunday night he softened his tone, urging his supporters to regroup from the loss in calm.

The result marked the opposition’s first major electoral victory since Chavez became president, with Venezuelans tired of rampant crime, routine shortages of basic goods and inflation pushing well into triple digits.

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