Venezuela’s Maduro Claims Victory in Local Elections

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claimed victory after his ruling Socialist Party won more votes than the opposition in municipal elections this weekend.

Allies of the government took 49 percent of votes while opposition candidates received 43 percent in 337 mayoral races, according to reports.

The elections were seen as a referendum on Maduro’s rule, which has been wracked by high inflation and shortages of basic consumer goods.

“This week we are going to deepen the economic offensive to help the working class and protect the middle class,” Maduro told supporters in a rally on Sunday night, according to Reuters.

But opposition leader Henrique Capriles said the results show the country is more divided than ever and claimed that the vote was tainted by irregularities, according to AFP.

“Venezuela is a divided country, it has no owner. We are building an alternative and will not rest until Venezuela is united,” he said Sunday.

Analysts were also quick to point out that while government allies obtained a majority of votes, opposition candidates won mayorships in most of Venezuela’s big cities, including the capital city, Caracas, and Maracaibo and Valencia, which are the second and third largest cities in the country.

The capitals of some states ruled by socialist governors were also won by opposition candidates, including Merida, a big college town, and Barinas, which is the capital of Hugo Chávez’s home state.

Maduro, the handpicked successor of the late Hugo Chávez, defeated Capriles by less than one percentage point in this April’s presidential election.