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Venezuela opposition banned from running in 2018 election

Nicolas Maduro

Caracas, Dec 11 (UITV/IANS) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that the country's main opposition parties were banned from taking part in next year's presidential election, the media reported.

He said only parties which took part in Sunday's mayoral polls would be able to contest the presidency.

"The other parties, Voluntad Popular and Primero Justicia have disappeared from the Venezuelan political map and today disappear completely because any party not participating today and that has called for boycotting the elections cannot participate any more," Efe news quoted Maduro as saying on Sunday evening.

Refusing to participate in the vote were the following opposition parties: Accion Democratica, Venezuela's oldest political grouping; Voluntad Popular, headed by imprisoned opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez; and Primero Justicia, headed by parliamentary chief Julio Borges, all of whom claimed that the election was not an independent manifestation of the popular will.

The parties refused to participate in Sunday's municipal elections after denouncing what they said was fraud and numerous irregularities in the October 15 gubernatorial elections, in which Maduro's PSUV party won 18 of the country's 23 governorships, according to official results.

Low turnout marked the municipal vote along with the abstention of opposition parties that refused to participate due to their lack of trust in the National Electoral Council (CNE).

Chavism, the political force behind Maduro's government, was expected to win the mayoral races in 335 of the country's municipalities.

Despite the low turnout in Caracas, Chavistas appeared jubilant on election day and the president of the government-supporting Constituent National Assembly (ANC), Delcy Rodriguez, declared that the election was a sign of a "vigorous democracy" here.

A total of 19.7 million citizens were eligible to vote at 14,384 voting precincts around the country.

Maduro called upon Venezuelans early Sunday morning to "vote for the future" in the municipal elections, claiming that Venezuela is the "world champion of freedom and democracy" for having held 24 elections since the socialist Bolivarian Revolution was installed under the late Hugo Chavez in 1999,

Meanwhile, opposition leader Maria Corina Machado said the elections are "a null event" called by the invalid ANC, organised by electoral authorities that are "fraudulent," adding that Venezuela is a territory "under military occupation."