By Laura Gamba
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - Polls closed Sunday in Venezuela in parliamentary elections championed by President Nicolas Maduro and rejected by most of the opposition, which has decided to boycott them.
The elections, contested by around 14,000 candidates, are expected to give Maduro control over the country's 227-seat National Assembly.
After the president voted, he spoke to the media, describing the current National Assembly as “disastrous.”
"Today, a new National Assembly is born," said Maduro after criticizing the outgoing one, which was won by the opposition in December 2015.
He said the current parliament, which ends its mandate on Jan. 5, "brought the plague of sanctions," in reference to the pressure measures imposed by the US, and therefore brought to Venezuela "cruelty, pain and suffering.”
Meanwhile, National Assembly President Juan Guaido called the elections a “fraud.”
“The fraud has been consummated, and the majority rejection of the people of Venezuela has been evident. Despite censorship and communicational hegemony, the truth cannot be hidden,” said Guaido in a message to the nation after the closing of the polls.
The Organization of American States (OAS) refused to send observers to Sunday's election and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the voting process a "fraud and a sham."
“Venezuela's electoral fraud has already been committed. The results announced by the illegitimate Maduro regime will not reflect the will of the Venezuelan people. What's happening today is a fraud and a sham, not an election,” Pompeo said on Twitter.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza responded.
“A zombie has spoken! Although according to his Boss, there was fraud in the US elections. Secretary Pompeo, take truth calmly and resignedly: in Venezuela, your failure is absolute. We hope that soon Diplomacy returns to the State Department and the White House,” he said on Twitter.
After the opposition decided not to run in 2018 because they considered the elections fraudulent, Guaido was proclaimed the country’s interim president, and more than 50 countries have recognized him as Venezuela’s leader.
The opposition said that until midday Sunday, the election turnout was very low as voting centers were noticeably empty. The government said it was a successful day.
Guaido's opposition movement announced a referendum after the election to ask Venezuelans whether they want to end Maduro's rule and hold new presidential elections.