CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela’s opposition won control of the national legislature, electoral authorities said Monday, in a blow to the oil-rich country’s socialist government that has held the congress for 16 years.
The broad, mostly center-right MUD coalition won a majority of 99 out of 167 seats in the legislature, the head of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, announced.
Socialist President Nicolás Maduro promptly appeared on television saying he accepted the defeat, a blow to his leadership during a dire economic crisis.
“We have come with our morals and our ethics to recognize these adverse results, to accept them and to say to our Venezuela that the constitution and democracy have triumphed,” he said.
Fireworks erupted over the capital Caracas as opposition supporters celebrated.
Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela won 46 seats in the single-chamber National Assembly, Lucena said. The results for 22 other seats had not yet been confirmed.
The result strengthens the opposition’s hand against Maduro though it was short of the super majority the MUD had hoped for.
“Venezuela has won,” tweeted senior opposition leader Henrique Capriles. “We always said this was the way: humility, maturity and serenity.”
Ganamos Venezuela!Siempre lo dijimos,este era el camino!Humildad,madurez y serenidad!Que viva el Pueblo venezolano!
— Henrique Capriles R. (@hcapriles) December 7, 2015
Maduro called for the opposition to “live together” with his side.
He softened his tone from before the elections when he had vowed to hold onto power “no matter how.”
Workers taking apart stage at Caracas plaza where Maduro was supposed to speak. Election results still not in pic.twitter.com/k9lPArp7h2
— Hannah Dreier (@hannahdreier) December 7, 2015
“We have lost a battle today, but the struggle to build a new society is just beginning,” he said.
“A counter-revolution has triumphed, which has imposed its own way, its war,” he said, in reference to what he alleges is a U.S.-backed “economic war” against Venezuela by businesses.
Downtown Caracas, blocks from where @NicolasMaduro is talking, erupts in celebration as opposition stuns socialists winning legislative vote
— Joshua Goodman (@APjoshgoodman) December 7, 2015
Hit by falling prices for the oil exports on which it relies, the country of 30 million is in an economic crisis, with families suffering shortages of basic foods and supplies.
— Maria Jose (@mjmontoyar) December 7, 2015
Watch Maduro’s post-vote speech, in Spanish: