Election firm says Venezuela inflated the turnout figures for its constituent assembly election by at least 1 million votes. The country's electoral authority denied the assertion as "irresponsible."
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro moved quickly on Wednesday to swear in a new assembly with extraordinary powers, as he faced charges that turnout figures for the body's election were "manipulated" by at least one million votes.
"We know, without any doubt, that the turnout of the recent election for a National Constituent Assembly was manipulated," said Antonio Mugica, CEO of Smartmatic, a company which has worked with Venezuela since 2004.
At a news conference in London, Mugica said Smartmatic, which has provided electronic voting technology for elections around the world, was able to detect the overstated officially announced turnout.
"We estimate the difference between the actual participation and the one announced by authorities is at least 1 million votes," he said.
Mugica declined to directly answer whether the manipulated turnout numbers changed the result of the election, in which authorities said 8.1 million people voted.
The head of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, denied the claim saying Smartmatic's assertion was "an irresponsible contention based on estimates with no grounding in the data."
It was an "opinion from a firm whose only role in the electoral process is to provide certain services and technical support that had no bearing on the results," she added.
Maduro planned to swear in the 545 members of the so-called Constituent Assembly, including his own wife and son, on Wednesday at a concert arena in Caracas, his press office said.
They will then take their seats on Thursday in the formal chamber of the National Assembly, which is now controlled by the opposition but whose powers will be superseded by the new body.
The election of the legislative super-body has been decried by critics as illegitimate and designed to give the unpopular government of President Maduro powers to rewrite the constitution and sideline the opposition-led congress.
TRT World spoke to journalist Juan Carlos Lamas who is following the developments from Caracas.
EU refuses to recognise assembly
The European Union, meanwhile, said it refused to recognise the new Venezuela assembly and was "ready to gradually step up" action if the situation deteriorates, diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said.
"The European Union and its member states therefore cannot recognise the Constituent Assembly as they have concerns over its effective representativeness and legitimacy," Mogherini said in a statement after meeting diplomats from the 28 EU countries to discuss the situation.
According to polling firm Datanalisis, more than 70 percent of Venezuelans oppose the new assembly.
Venezuela jailed two leading Maduro critics on Tuesday in a fresh blow to the opposition after deadly protests erupted around an election last Sunday.
The opposition has called a major rally for Thursday as well.
More than 125 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters since April 1 in an uptick of resistance to the Maduro government.