Hours after polls closed, several opposition leaders took to the Internet to announce that they had won a majority of seats in the National Assembly for the first time since 1998.

But with no official results released and the ruling socialist party not commenting, their claims could not be confirmed.

An opposition victory would be a major setback for the socialist revolution started 17 years ago by the late Hugo Chavez, who until his death in 2013 had an almost-magical hold on the political aspirations of Venezuela's long-excluded masses.

It would also be a major blow to Latin America's left, which gained power in the wake of Chavez's ascent but more recently has been struggling in the face of a region-wide economic slowdown and voter fatigue in some countries with rampant corruption.

President Nicolas Maduro had repeatedly vowed in recent weeks to take to the streets and defend the socialist system build by his mentor Chavez if his party lost, though
yesterday, he appeared to soften his tone.

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