Maduro declared winner of Venezuelan presidential election decried as a sham

Venezuela's election officials say socialist leader Nicolas Maduro has won a second six-year term as president of the oil-rich South American country, while his main rivals are disputing the legitimacy of the vote and calling for a new election.

The National Election Council announced that with almost 93 percent of polling stations reporting, Maduro won nearly 68 percent of the votes in Sunday's election, beating his nearest challenger Henri Falcon by almost 40 points.

WITH SOCIAL MEDIA, VENEZUELA EXERTS INFLUENCE ON THE AMERICAS

The opposition throughout the day argued that a Maduro victory would lack legitimacy because many voters stayed home, heeding the call to boycott an election seen as rigged. Government critics also say other voters were pressured into voting for Maduro.

Electoral authorities say turnout is projected to reach 48 percent.

Voters register with members of the ruling United Socialist Party before proceeding to a polling post to vote in presidential elections in Valencia, Venezuela, Sunday, May 20, 2018. Known as "red points' the checkpoints are set up outside voting centers to confirm peoples' cards, which are needed to access social programs. President Nicolas Maduro is seeking a second six-year term, despite a deepening crisis that's made food scarce and inflation soar as oil production in the once wealthy nation plummets.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Voters register with members of the ruling United Socialist Party before proceeding to a polling post to vote in presidential elections in Valencia, Venezuela, Sunday, May 20, 2018.  (AP)

The United States and many governments around the world rejected the election even before ballots were cast as several key rivals of Maduro were barred from running.

Increasing authoritarian rule and mismanagement of the all-important state-run oil industry have caused a deepening economic crisis, putting Venezuelan on the brink of collapse.