(Adds Maduro, fizzling of protest)
By Girish Gupta and Maria Ramirez
CARACAS/PUERTO ORDAZ, Venezuela, Oct 18 (Reuters) -
V enezuela's opposition refused on Wednesday to swear in
newly-elected governors before a pro-government legislative
superbody it deems unconstitutional, as a small protest broke
out in southern Bolivar state over fraud allegations.
The pro-government electoral council announced in the middle
of the night that the ruling socialists had won the Bolivar
governorship, meaning President Nicolas Maduro's government took
18 of 23 states in Sunday's vote.
Polls had put the opposition far ahead, and anti-Maduro
politicians have alleged a litany of dirty tricks including
switching electoral centers to dangerous areas at the eleventh
hour and gross abuse of state resources.
However, they have failed to give evidence of
ballot-tampering, and some opposition candidates have conceded
they lost due to high abstention in their demoralized ranks.
Still, the disparate opposition coalition said its five
winning candidates would not be sworn in by the controversial
legislative superbody known as the Constituent Assembly.
"The governors-elect will only be sworn in as established in
the constitution and the laws of the Republic," the Democratic
Unity coalition said in a statement on Wednesday.
Leftist Maduro has previously said that governors not sworn
in by the pro-government legislative body will not be allowed to
take their posts in a country reeling from widespread food and
medicine shortages, a collapsing currency and soaring inflation.
He described Venezuela's electoral system as the world's
most secure and slammed U.S. President Donald Trump and other
foreign leaders who questioned the veracity of the vote.
Bolivar became a flashpoint after the electoral council
briefly showed the opposition winning on its web site Sunday
night before proclaiming the Socialist Party candidate as winner
in the early hours of Wednesday.
Opposition candidate Andres Velasquez accused the electoral
council of invalidating some ballots cast for him.
Pockets of his supporters protested outside the electoral
board's offices in state capital Ciudad Bolivar, with some
clashes breaking out on Monday and Tuesday. Some 50 people
rallied on Wednesday, though the protest quickly fizzled.
"I am going to demonstrate to the world that this electoral
process is fraudulent," Velasquez told local radio in Bolivar,
home to many of Venezuela's gold and diamond mines.
However, nationwide protest like those that rocked Venezuela
for four months earlier this year are not expected, given
fatigue and disappointment among demonstrators.
The perennially divided opposition is in disarray after
Sunday's election, with some leaders calling fraud and others
conceding defeat, often in uncoordinated press statements.
Sunday's election has left the socialists more confident of
winning a presidential vote expected in late 2018.
(Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and
First Published: 2017-10-18 00:11:08
Updated 2017-10-18 18:36:51
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