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Venezuela polls close

Sunday, December 06, 2015 - 00:49

Polling stations close in an election which could give Venezuela's opposition its first national assembly majority in 16 years. Rough cut (no reporter narration).

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ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Venezuela's polling stations have closed although some remained open past their official 6:00 p.m. closing time (1030 GMT) for the last voters cast their ballots in parliamentary elections that may punish the ruling Socialists for a brutal economic crisis and give the opposition a long-sought platform to challenge President Nicolas Maduro. Venezuelan law requires voting centres to allow voters in line at closing time to cast their ballot. Chronic product shortages and the world's highest inflation could hand "Chavismo" a first loss in the National Assembly since the movement's charismatic late founder, Hugo Chavez, took office in 1999, polls show. The practical impact of a potential opposition victory would depend on how large a majority it wins. Winning a majority of the 167 seats would not give the opposition power to overhaul the dysfunctional state-led economy but it would shatter the Socialist Party's aura of invincibility and could embolden foes to seek a recall of Maduro in 2016. Taking two thirds of the seats would allow Maduro's adversaries to sack cabinet ministers as well as name directors of the National Electoral Council. With a simple majority, lawmakers could pass an amnesty law to seek the release of jailed politicians, open investigations of state agencies, interrogate cabinet ministers and pressure for the publication of economic indicators such as inflation that have been kept under wraps as the economy has unravelled. The election will have no immediate impact on Maduro's term in office, which expires at the start of 2019 but the opposition can seek a recall referendum next year by collecting about 4 million signatures.

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Venezuela polls close

Sunday, December 06, 2015 - 00:49