Venezuela ruling party wins most governor races, according to electoral council
Venezuela's National Electoral Council says candidates for the ruling socialist party have won a majority of the governors' offices up for grabs in Sunday's regional elections.
Opposition leaders are disputing the vote count in regional elections, after they hoped it would tilt a majority of the states' 23 governorships back into their control for the first time in nearly two decades of socialist party rule.
Pro-government electoral council president Tibisay Lucena says opposition candidates won just five of 22 races where the results are considered irreversible.
Projections by independent pollsters had predicted the opposition would win a majority of the governorships..
The developments will be watched closely as an indicator of how much support President Nicolas Maduro and the socialist movement founded by his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, maintain amid soaring inflation and crippling food and medical shortages that continue to wreak havoc in Venezuelans' daily lives.
Months of anti-government protests earlier this year left at least 120 dead, and a newly installed, pro-government constitutional assembly is ruling with virtually unlimited powers after a July vote that the National Electoral Council was accused of manipulating. With few checks and balances remaining, an increasing number of foreign leaders are calling Venezuela a dictatorship.
The opposition has objected to actions it says aim to suppress turnout among its base, including an electoral council move to relocate more than 200 voting centres at the last minute.
In the aftermath of the protests, many opposition supporters have grown discouraged about the possibility of change. Others are upset at leaders they see as disorganised and unable to decide on a strategy to loosen Maduro's grip on power.
The president has warned that new governors will have to take a loyalty oath submitting to the authority of the constitutional assembly, something that opposition contenders vow not to do.
An opposition victory was not seen as a guarantee of significant change to the balance of power. After opposition candidates won a majority in congress in 2015, other branches such as the government-stacked Supreme Court and later the constitutional assembly essentially neutralised its lawmaking powers.