Venezuela

Chavez keeps majority, opposition gains ground in Venezuala vote

Reuters

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's party won most seats in key legislative elections held Sunday, but strong opposition gains robbed it of enough votes to easily pass reforms, electoral officials said.

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The ruling party won at least 94 of 165 seats in the National Assembly in the vote, and the opposition had at least 62, the electoral council said on Monday.

"We have to keep strengthening the Revolution. A new victory for the people. I congratulate everyone", Chavez wrote on his Twitter account.

But the opposition's return shakes up a scene Chavez has dominated for the past five years.

"It's been demonstrated that the country has an alternative, formed thanks to the convergence of very different people," said Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, spokesperson for the opposition coalition formed to challenge Chavez.

The opposition claims its candidates won 52 percent of the vote, but failed to get a majority of seats due to controversial recent changes in voting districts.

Still, their advances mean Chavez's party loses a two-thirds majority in parliament.

In more than a decade of rule, Chavez has nationalised public utilities, key industries and media.

A platform of health clinics and subsidised food programs for the poor also contribute to maintaining his high level of popularity.

The opposition, which boycotted the previous elections in 2005, focused its campaign on Venezuela's high murder rate and record inflation.

More than 66 percent of 17 million eligible voters turned out for the elections.

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