Venezuela's ruling socialists swept nearly all the races for mayors across the country Sunday, and President Nicolas Maduro says key opposition parties are now banned from future elections. At a rally late Sunday in the center of Caracas, Maduro announced that pro-government candidates grabbed more than 300 of the 335 mayoral offices, the AP reports. The voting marked the last nationwide elections before next year's presidential race; Maduro is expected to seek another term despite his steep unpopularity. "The imperialists have tried to set fire to Venezuela to take our riches," Maduro told the crowd. "We've defeated the American imperialists with our votes, our ideas, truths, reason, and popular will."
The elections played out as Venezuelans struggle with triple-digit inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and charges that Maduro's government has undermined democracy by imprisoning dissidents and usurping the powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Three of the four biggest opposition parties refused to take part in Sunday's contests, protesting what they called an electoral system rigged by a "dictator." After dropping his vote into a ballot box, Maduro responded to the boycott. "A party that has not participated today cannot participate anymore," Maduro said. "They will disappear from the political map." The BBC reports that the ban affects the Justice First, Popular Will, and Democratic Action parties.