Maduro dismisses vote-tampering claims

Cassandra Garrison
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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his wife and deputy of the National Assembly Cilia Flores.

Venezuela's president has dismissed allegations official turnout figures for the election of an all-powerful constituent assembly were manipulated, accusing the international software firm behind the claim of bowing to US pressure to cast doubt over the vote.

In his first meeting with assembly delegates on Wednesday night, President Nicolas Maduro not only stood by the official count of eight million-plus votes cast in Sunday's divisive election but proclaimed an additional two million people would have voted if they had not been blocked by anti-government protesters.

Maduro also announced a one-day delay in the assembly's installation, saying it would convene on Friday instead of Thursday as planned in order to "organise it well in peace and tranquillity".

The body is empowered to rewrite Venezuela's constitution and Maduro vows he will use it to target his opponents and solidify the socialist system installed by the late president Hugo Chavez.

Maduro called the vote in May after weeks of protests fuelled by widespread anger over food shortages, triple-digit inflation and high crime - unrest that continues and has caused at least 125 deaths.

The head Smartmatic, which has worked with Venezuela since 2004 on its voting system, said earlier on Wednesday the National Electoral Council's voter turnout number was off by at least one million.

Independent analysts and opposition leaders have contended the actual participation level was much lower.

"That stupid guy, the president of Smartmatic, pressured to the neck by the gringos and the Brits, said there were 7.5 million," Maduro said in televised remarks.

"I think there were 10 million Venezuelans who went out."

Maduro provided no evidence to support his claim but his remarks were received with resounding applause from about 500 people elected to the assembly.

Smartmatic chief executive Antonio Mugica told reporters in London that results recorded by the company's systems and those reported by the National Electoral Council showed "without any doubt" the official turnout figure was tampered with.