Millions of Venezuelans signaled their disapproval of President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to hold a constituent assembly by casting ballots on Sunday in a vote unlike any other in this nation’s history. More than 98 percent of voters sided with the opposition in answering three yes-or-no questions drafted with the aim of weakening Mr. Maduro’s legitimacy days before his constituent assembly is expected to convene. Opponents see the assembly as a power grab by an increasingly unpopular leader and fear he may use it to do away with democratic elections. Sunday’s exercise, known as a popular consultation, was organized by a slate of opposition parties that dominate Venezuela’s National Assembly.
Organizers had hoped that a large turnout and a lopsided result would widen rifts within the governing party and deepen the government’s international isolation, undermining Mr. Maduro’s plan to appoint an assembly of handpicked supporters to draft a new Constitution.
Shortly before midnight, a group of Venezuelan university administrators tasked with overseeing the vote count said that more than 7,186,000 ballots had been cast. Organizers hailed the outcome and the turnout.
“This country demonstrated once again that it conquers its aspirations through the vote,” Cecilia García Arocha, the head of the Central University of Venezuela, said as she announced the results.