> A rare breather for Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro, whose Socialist Party's on course to dominate the country's mayoral election, ahead of the presidential vote in 2018. Maduro said the government had won at least 90% of the vote in over 330 areas. Sunday's election victory was helped by a partial boycott of three opposition parties, who protested the system they say serves Maduro's quote, dictatorship.
He says those parties should be banned for taking part in next year's presidential race, adding that they will, quote, disappear from the political map. Maduro's popularity has fallen by half since he came to power in 2013 following the death of Hugo Chavez. Venezuela has endured one of the worst economic meltdowns in Northern America history.
Millions are skipping meals, missing medicines, and lining up for hours at shops during acute shortages and crippling inflation. Foreign pressure has hardened too, after US president Donald Trump imposed sanctions of the country for alleged government rights abuses and corruption. But with loyalists on his side, Maduro is expected to be socialist party's candidate in the 2018 election.
Timing for the vote is key. There's speculation that the pro-Maduro election board will bring the vote forward to the first half of the year, giving opposition parties a short window to unite. With the most popular leaders banned in advance, such as Leopoldo López, who is under house arrest, the opposition may struggle to find a popular flag-bearer to challenge Maduro.