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Venezuela: all you need to know about Sunday's historic vote

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By Euronews  with Reuters, AFP, Newsweek, The Economist, APTN, BBC
Venezuela: all you need to know about Sunday's historic vote

An opposition coalition has won an overwhelming majority in a legislative election in Venezuela.

Congress in Caracas is changing hands for the first time in 16 years.

Here is the Euronews lowdown on what is happening in the oil-rich South American state.

Who is running Venezuela now?

Venezuela has a presidential political system. Elected on a six-year mandate in 2013, President Nicolas Maduro is head of the executive.

With 167 seats, the National Assembly is the legislative branch.

His party, the socialist PSUV, had a majority until Sunday’s vote. Observers say now that has been lost to the opposition coalition MUD (the Union for Democracy), he could have a much rougher ride with the National Assembly.

A power struggle is the likely outcome, with much of Maduro’s legislation being held up.

Will Maduro remain in power?

So far, there is no reason for him to go.

However, analysts say that could change.

If the opposition grouping gets two-thirds of the seats in the National Assembly, it is enough for a super majority. It will then have the power to table a vote of no-confidence in Maduro and/or his ministers.

Additionally, from April 2016, Maduro will be halfway through his term and a “recall referendum” can be held. Some opposition members are already talking of this.

Are Venezuela’s politics likely to change?

It is possible. Both Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chavez followed strictly socialist government policies. Large amounts of money from Venezuela’s generous oil reserves, the largest confirmed reserves in the world, were ploughed into social programmes.

However, the fall in the global oil price has put this in jeopardy.

There have been reports of severe shortages in Venezuela, with empty shelves in supermarkets.

News of the MUD coalition’s win has been met with joy by those ready for a change.

What has been the international reaction?

The European Union’s head of foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, has described Sunday’s result as a “vote for change”.

Some MEPs have welcomed the change of direction, saying they have already forged links with the MUD coalition in Venezuela.

The challenges ahead

Venezuela’s economy is performing very poorly. There are reports of product shortages and the world’s highest rate of inflation at 100%.

This, coupled with the falling oil price, has combined to create a “perfect storm” of poor circumstances that will not be resolved overnight.