C andidates for the centre-right opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) have won a definitive victory in parliamentary elections over President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which had held onto the country’s legislature for 16 years.
With 22 seats still to be announced, the MUD has won 99 seats to the PSUV’s 46. Opposition sources have predicted the MUD is on course to win as many as 113 seats, which would give them the crucial two-thirds majority required to amend the structure of key institutions including the courts and the national election board.
Supporters of the MUD have been triumphant. “Venezuela wanted a change and today that change has begun,” Jesus Torrealba, leader of the MUD coalition, told reporters. “The results are as we hoped. Venezuela has won. It’s irreversible,” tweeted Henrique Capriles, a former presidential candidate and significant figure in the current coalition.
President Maduro conceded defeat immediately after the election results were announced: “We have come with our morality and our ethics to recognise these adverse results, to accept them and to tell our Venezuela, the constitution and democracy have triumphed”. Nevertheless he said of the result that “it was not the opposition who triumphed, but circumstantially a counter-revolution [that] has triumphed”.
Violence predicted by some journalists and commentators, following accusations of intimidation by government supporters and the assassination of opposition politician Luis Manuel Diaz less than two weeks ago, did not materialise with voting described as largely calm.
The opposition’s victory will allow it to control government spending, grant amnesty to political prisoners, investigate corruption and withhold permission for the president to travel abroad. A two-thirds majority will allow it potentially even greater powers, including the ability to appoint judges. “The government fears the possibility of being held accountable,” Javier Corrales, a Venezuela scholar at Amherst College told the Financial Times. “It is so complicit in crimes of all kinds.”
The country has suffered mounting economic turmoil in the wake of collapsing oil prices. Inflation in the country is said to be at around 95%, with a tangled system of import duties and currency controls causing shortages of many basic goods. GDP is on course to contract by 10% this year.
For the New York Times, William Neuman reports on the election results and aftermath.
For the FT, Andres Schipani last week spoke to opposition and government figures about the election’s significance and the current state of Venezuela, which some opponents accuse of being ‘run by thugs’.
Meanwhile for Venezuela-based regional broadcaster TeleSUR, sympathetic to the ruling party’s Bolivarian revolution, Tamara Pearson considers the results and likely consequences of Sunday’s vote.