98% of Venezuela referendum voters reject President's proposal

Recounting the votes at one of the polling stations in Caracas on Sunday

Recounting the votes at one of the polling stations in Caracas on Sunday

Venezuela's opposition said more than 7.1 million people responded to its call to vote in a symbolic rejection of President Nicolas Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution.

On 16 July, the opposition organised a "popular consultation" in which voters were asked whether they approved of Maduro's effort to hold the constitutive assembly.

Over 7 million out of 19.5 million eligible voters have participated in the opposition poll, nearly the number of 7.7 million voters who backed the opposition in the last presidential elections. This was a typical step in the constitution of Venezuela.

Canada and Mexico were among the countries that issued statements Sunday evening lauding the opposition vote. "The results seem to confirm that the opposition would easily defeat the government in any election".

After months of demonstrations that have led to almost 100 deaths, the Democratic Unity coalition brought millions onto the streets on Sunday for an informal referendum meant to de-legitimize a leader they call a dictator.

Amid ongoing turmoil, an overwhelming majority of those who voted in an unofficial referendum organized by Venezuela's opposition has rejected the motion of leftist President Nicolas Maduro to change the constitution and supplant the opposition-leadning Parliament with a "Constituent Assembly".

For the past several months, Venezuelans have taken to the streets in opposition of President Maduro.

"The result is a remarkable show of force for Venezuela's opposition", New York-based Torino Capital said, noting participation also meant openly defying the government.

Maduro has positioned his proposed constitutional rewrite as a solution to this continuing unrest, calling Sunday's vote "a meaningless internal exercise". The actual election is due to take place on July 30.

Voters in Venezuela's opposition referendum, which has no legal status, have rejected Maduro's plans for a new Constituent Assembly with the power to scrap the National Assembly and re-write the constitution, BBC News reported citing academics monitoring the poll.

More than 7.1 million Venezuelans participated in the vote on Sunday, and opposition leaders hailed the results.

According to Borges, once all ballots are counted, there will be some 7.5 million votes in the latest poll, which he said would be sufficient to overturn Maduro's mandate if there was a referendum.

The rector of the Central University of Venezuela, Cecilia García Arocha, said 6,492,381 people voted inside Venezuela and another 693,789 at polling stations overseas.

"One particular thing that makes this act unlawful is that they never consulted with the people if they people want to change the constitution". And do do you approve of the renewal of public powers in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, and the holding of free and transparent elections, as well as the formation of a government of national unity to restore constitutional order?

It fears the new body could herald dictatorship.

Opposition organizers pointed out Sunday's turnout follows just two weeks of organization, with voting at just 2,000 polling stations, compared to 14,000 at the 2015 vote.

The opposition plans to burn ballot papers from the informal poll so those who voted against the government can not be identified and victimised. "We are voting to get them out".

On the same day as the unofficial referendum, Maduro's government held a "trial run" for the July 30 vote, which it described as a success.

"It clearly states that Maduro is as deeply unpopular as he has always been thought to be, and it shows, as the polls have suggested, that Venezuelans are overwhelmingly against the idea of establishing a constitutional assembly", Philip reports.

The chief prosecutor's office said Xiomara Soledad Scott, a nurse, had been killed and four others wounded.

The opposition however has blamed a "paramilitary" gang for the shooting, which prosecutors said they would investigate.

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