In Depth

How Nicolas Maduro won crisis election

Opposition boycott handed socialist incumbent victory despite record low approval ratings

Nicolas Maduro has won a second six-year term as Venezuela’s president, after the main opposition party refused to contest Sunday’s vote when many of its candidates were barred from running or exiled.

Over a million Venezuelans have left in search for a better life abroad in recent years as the county’s once robust oil industry has collapsed, leaving widespread shortages of food and medicines.

Those who have remained have been unable to withdraw cash and are often forced to queue for hours for food. The collapse in the price of oil since its 2014 peak has left Venezuela’s economy in tatters and coincided with a rise in poverty and crime.

“Polls suggest voters overwhelmingly blame Mr Maduro for their mounting problems,”  The Independent reports.

Last year it was reported that many of the animals in the national zoo had starved to death – which many saw a symbol of the country’s problems.

Tainted election

Despite the huge difficulties facing the country, Maduro, who took over from socialist president Hugo Chavez after his death and won a razor-thin vote back in 2013, has been returned to power after the main opposition Democratic Unity coalition boycotted the vote, claiming it had been rigged.

Their assertion has been backed by the US, the EU, the UN Human Rights Council and neighbouring South American countries, which have all voiced concern over voter fraud orchestrated by the government.

Opposition boycott

It appears the opposition’s call for its supporters to boycott the election meant less than half of eligible voters turned out.

However, Javier Corrales, a Venezuela expert at Amherst College, told the Associated Press that the opposition's sit-out strategy could be as disastrous as its boycott of congressional elections in 2005.

On that occasion, the ruling party swept up all seats, giving it the ability to pass legislation removing presidential term limits that further strengthened Chavez’s grip on power.

“The irony is that this is the least democratic election of all but it's also the best chance the opposition has ever had,” Corrales said, before yesterday’s vote.

“If Maduro wins by a large margin, he'll take it is as a green light to continue radicalising and moving in the direction of completely destroying the private sector.”

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