Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced that the country’s main opposition parties will be banned from taking part in next year’s presidential elections.
The Latin American leader said the opposition parties that boycotted Sunday’s municipal elections were no longer part of the political landscape and would not be able to participate in future voting.
The socialist president, who has been in power since 2013, vowed to consolidate laws that support his move.
The announcement came as Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party claimed a landslide victory in the local polls, winning at least 90 percent of the 335 mayoral seats.
Several opposition leaders boycotted the vote, accusing the government of manipulating the process to maintain its 18-year grip on power.
“The parties that did not participate today, which boycotted the elections, cannot participate anymore,” Maduro said on Sunday. “That’s the criteria laid out legally by the Constituent Assembly and as the head of state, I support that.”
Meanwhile, voting on Sunday passed generally peacefully with isolated reports of violence and irregularities.
Three of the four main parties chose to sit out the vote, alleging the electoral system was biased.
“He has been a plague, Nicolas Maduro and his regime,” Richard Blanco, opposition deputy and president of the Alianza Bravo Pueblo (ABP) party, told Al Jazeera.
“He should go. He should resign democratically so we can have elections and choose candidates at every level of society.”
Al Jazeera’s Daniel Schweimler, reporting from the capital Caracas said banning the opposition could have repercussions in the lead up to the presidential elections scheduled for October next year.
“This is really setting the scene for a big fight I think in the year to come, in the run to the October presidential elections in 2018,” he said.
“We are going to have to see just what part the opposition candidates and parties will choose to play or not. If they don’t take part in the election, how will they oppose Maduro’s government?”
Venezuela remains a country in crisis, with rampant inflation and shortages of food and medicine, which has forced tens of thousands to flee the country.