Venezuela’s election officials say socialist leader Nicolas Maduro has won a second six-year term as president of the oil-rich South American country, while his main rivals are disputing the legitimacy of the vote and calling for a new election.

The National Election Council announced that with almost 93 percent of polling stations reporting, Maduro won nearly 68 percent of the votes in Sunday’s election, beating his nearest challenger Henri Falcon by almost 40 points.

The opposition throughout the day argued that a Maduro victory would lack legitimacy because many voters stayed home, heeding the call to boycott an election seen as rigged. Government critics also say other voters were pressured into voting for Maduro.

Electoral authorities say turnout is projected to reach 48 percent.

The United States and many governments around the world rejected the election even before ballots were cast as several key rivals of Maduro were barred from running.

Increasing authoritarian rule and mismanagement of the all-important state-run oil industry have caused a deepening economic crisis, putting Venezuelan on the brink of collapse.

Running mate Javier Bertucci and Falcon both accused electoral authorities of allowing what they called blatant violations, including political sloganeering near voting centers.

At numerous polling sites, socialist party supporters set up red tents nearby where they scanned government issued “Fatherland Cards” that voters said they hoped would bring them a cash bonus or even a free apartment.

Falcon, a one-time acolyte of the late President Hugo Chavez, who implemented Venezuela’s socialist administration, said he had received at least 350 complaints from voters about the existence of the “Red Points” sites.

He said some were vent set up inside voting centers. He called it a “pressure mechanism, an element of political and social blackmail” directed at a poorer sector of the population.

National Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena later said officials had confirmed a handful of complaints and rectified any violations, but he insisted that overall they were “nothing in comparison to previous electoral processes.”


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