EU Concerned for Future of Venezuelan Democracy

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The European Union says it is concerned about the future of democracy in Venezuela after the widely-criticized vote to elect a powerful constitutional assembly.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Monday that such an assembly “elected under doubtful and often violent circumstances cannot be part of the solution.”

Andreeva said the weekend poll, held amid protests in which 10 people were killed, “has increased division and will further de-legitimize Venezuela’s democratically elected institutions.”

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council says more than 8 million people voted to grant President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling socialist party virtually unlimited powers with a constitutional assembly —  a turnout more than double the estimates of both the government’s political opponents and independent experts.

Council president Tibisay Lucena announced just before midnight that turnout in Sunday’s vote was 41.53 percent, or 8,089,320 people.

The count was met with mockery and anger from members of the opposition, who said they believed between 2 million and 3 million people voted. One well-respected independent analysis said 3.6 million appeared to have voted.

Andreeva said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is working on a “joint response” to developments from the 28-nation bloc but would not be drawn on whether that might involve sanctions.

The U.S. State Department earlier condemned the Venezuelan government for holding a vote to elect a powerful National Constituent Assembly, calling it a step toward authoritarian rule.

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