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Majority reject President Maduro's plan to amend Venezuelan constitution

Nicolas Maduro

Caracas, July 17 (UiTV/IANS) - A vast majority of Venezuelan voters, 98.4 percent, rejected the President's proposal to form a National Constituent Assembly to amend the country's Constitution in an opposition-backed referendum.

A total of 7,186,170 Venezuelans participated in the unofficial referendum on Sunday despite it not being backed by the government, reports Efe news.

In the referendum, Venezuelans were asked to respond "yes" or "no" to three questions.

They were asked if they approve the new Constituent Assembly proposed by President Nicolas Maduro; if they want the armed forces to protect the constitution of 1999; and if they want the formation of a national unity government and fresh elections.

Results showed 98.5 per cent of respondents voted in favour of the armed forces protecting the constitution following the decisions of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which was declared in contempt by the Supreme Court last year, stripping it of its powers.

Some 98.3 per cent of the participants (6,384,607) backed the renewal of public powers, the holding of "free and transparent" elections and a transitional government of national unity.

The figure obtained by the opposition, however, is lower than the 7,587,579 votes secured by Maduro in the presidential elections of 2013, when he beat opposition leader Henrique Capriles by less than two percentage points.

The President's call to amend the constitution has led to widespread protests condemning the move. Over 80 people have been killed in the protests that started late April.