Voting proceeds smoothly for Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly

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Caracas, July 31 (IANS) Voting in the Venezuelan government’s controversial bid to rewrite the Constitution was going on smoothly early on Sunday, the head of the electoral body said.

“At this time, we are voting with great calm. We have no reports of major disturbances, nor of bad news of attempts to disrupt (the poll),” Xinhua quoted Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), as saying.

The polls opened at 6:00 a.m. local time for voters to choose the members of a National Constituent Assembly (ANC) to debate and amend the Constitution, an initiative proposed by the government of President Nicolas Maduro and rejected by the opposition.

In an attempt to encourage voters to go to the polls, Maduro headed to a local voting station early so he could be the first to cast a vote, according to the Caracas-based news network Telesur.

“In an unprecedented move, the Venezuelan president was the first to exercise his right to vote” at 6:05 a.m. local time (1035 GMT), the network said on its website.

“I want mine to be the first vote…the first vote for peace, the first vote for Venezuela’s sovereignty and independence, the first vote for the peaceful future of Venezuela,” Maduro said.

“Here we are, a peaceful country exercising its right to vote,” he added.

The opposition stepped up protests in the lead up to Sunday’s vote but an announced ban on demonstrations appeared to be keeping things calm.

–IANS

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