President Hugo Chavez's allies have won a majority in congressional elections, Venezuela's electoral chief said today.
National Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena said that, with most votes counted, Mr Chavez's party won at least 90 of the 165 seats, while the opposition coalition won at least 59 seats.
Ms Lucena said other seats either went to a small party or had not yet been determined. The initial count was announced eight hours after the close of yesterday's voting because there were a number of close races, she added.
Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, leader of the opposition coalition, called the delayed results "inadmissible". He said that, according to the opposition's tally, anti-Chavez candidates had garnered more than half of the popular vote.
Before the vote, the opposition had criticised an election law passed by Mr Chavez's allies which redrew some legislative districts and gave greater weight to votes in rural areas, where the president remains more popular. Opposition candidates agreed to participate in the elections and respect the results as long as the vote count was transparent.
Mr Aveledo said the areas where the electoral council did not release results were dominated by the opposition, and he demanded electoral authorities give details on those results before dawn.
The opposition, which boycotted the last legislative elections in 2005, dramatically increased its representation beyond the 11 or so politicians who defected from Mr Chavez's camp in the current National Assembly.
Mr Chavez's opponents achieved their goal of preventing his allies from obtaining at least a two-thirds majority of the 165 seats - a threshold at which pro-Chavez politicians have been able to rewrite laws unopposed and unilaterally appoint officials including Supreme Court justices and members of the electoral council.