Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin MLA defends Venezuela inauguration attendance

Conor Murphy, Sinn Féin MLA
Image caption Conor Murphy said he believes the Venezuelan electoral system is robust

A Sinn Féin MLA has defended his attendance at the inauguration of the Venezuelan president and denied that the election was fraudulent.

Nicolás Maduro was sworn in for a second term as Venezuela's president last Thursday.

There has been international criticism that his re-election was illegitimate.

Conor Murphy was one of two Sinn Féin representatives to attend the inauguration. The party said it was invited by the Venezuelan government.

The May 2018 polls in Venezuela were marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging.

Sinn Féin's attendance has been condemned by other parties in the Republic of Ireland.

However, Mr Murphy, speaking to BBC News NI after returning to Northern Ireland, said he knows more about the situation in the South American country than his party's critics.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicolás Maduro has dismissed claims of foul play in his election victory last May

He said that Sinn Féin "wanted to show solidarity with the democratic choice of the Venezuelan people".

"We've had representatives there, as we have in many countries across the world on a number of occasions," he said.

Mr Murphy said that he is satisfied the electoral system is robust.

'Fair and transparent'

"I went there in 2012 for the last presidential election, at the request of the Electoral Commission, with people from all over these islands, parliamentarians from Britain.

"We observed the electoral process, we were taken through it, we met people on polling day, we spoke to the opposition, we spoke to candidates, we spoke to ordinary people that were coming to vote.

"The Jimmy Carter institute (The Carter Centre) examined the electoral system and declared it to be one of the most advanced electoral systems in the world, with fair and transparent elections."

The US and 13 other countries in the Americas said last week that they would not recognise Mr Maduro's presidency.

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