Spain hopes Venezuela vote results will encourage dialogue
Spain said Monday it hoped that the results of elections in Venezuela, in which the opposition party made big gains, will encourage greater political dialogue in the country.
"The Spanish government emphasises its civil and democratic commitment to the Venezuelan people and congratulates the government and the Venezuelan political parties for the election results achieved," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
These results "will definitely be a good basis for a more intense and fruitful political dialogue, in the National Assembly and in other institutions."
The party of President Hugo Chavez won the most seats in the critical legislative vote on Sunday but strong opposition gains weakened his iron grip on the National Assembly, first results showed on Monday.
Chavez's party won at least 94 of the 165 seats, while the opposition had at least 62, electoral officials said after an overnight count.
The results were set to shake up an assembly that the Latin American leftist champion is used to dominating, and the vote could be seen as an early referendum on Chavez's performance two years before presidential elections in which he is eyeing a third, six-year term.
Spain, the former colonial power in Venezuela, sent an observer mission to the elections.
Ahead of the vote, one of the team, Gustavo de Aristegui, a lawmaker from Spain's conservative opposition Popular Party, said on television that Venezuela had seen a "serious regression in freedoms" under Chavez, who has been in office for almost 12 years.
Venezuelan electoral rules ban foreign observers from expressing personal opinions which could influence voters.
The head of its National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, said De Aristegui had "meddled in the internal affairs of the country and that is unacceptable in any country, not only Venezuela."
But Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro denied that he had been expelled from the country.
© 2010 AFP