At least nine people, including an election candidate, have been killed in the past 24 hours in Venezuela as the country voted for an all-powerful new legislative body tasked with reforming the country’s constitution.

Country’s opposition parties boycotted Sunday’s polls, which they say is aimed at consolidating President Nicolas Maduro’s power.

Counting of ballots across Venezuela began on Sunday night after the voting was extended by an hour. Preliminary results were expected before the end of the day.

Shootings at protests killed a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old in the western state of Tachira. A soldier was also shot dead there. The death toll also included a 30-year-old regional leader of a youth opposition party in the northeast town of Cumana and two protesters in the western state of Merida.

Anti-Maduro activists wearing hoods or masks erected barricades on roads and scuffles broke out with security forces who moved in quickly to disperse the demonstrators.

The president, elected in 2013, has faced months of protests for presiding over a debilitating economic crisis that has seen high inflation rate and shortages of food and other basic amenities.

He has pressed ahead with the vote to create the all-powerful constituent assembly or temporary parliament despite US sanctions and months of violence which has claimed the lives of around 120 people.

The US has condemned the violence, urging governments in “the region and around the world to take strong action to hold accountable those who undermine democracy, deny human rights”.