Updated 05:21 AM EST, Sun, Nov 17, 2019

Historic Win for Opposition in Venezuela

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Venezuelans woke up to a different reality on Monday. The opposition, Mesa de Unidad Democratica, won the most seats in legislative elections with 99 seats and the ruling PSUV with 46 seats.

The win was the first time in 16 years the opposition has defeated the chavista government in Venezuela. The Mesa de Unidad Democratica celebrated its victory by issuing a brief message from its campaign headquarters. "Change has started, Venezuela. Today we have reasons to celebrate," it read.

"This is a sharp inflection point in the history of Venezuela. The staggering opposition win likely heralds a new age of political tension in the country and the beginning of the end for the Chavista project, said Ben Raderstorf, analyst for the Inter-American Dialogue. Because the sharp political divide will now be more visible than ever, the bitter mood of politics is likely to only deteriorate before it improves, he added.

There are still 19 undecided seats and all eyes will be on who wins these decisive spots. The legislature goes on recess on December 15 and reconvenes on January 5. Raderstorf said two scenarios, a "qualified majority of " 101 (3/5) or an "absolute majority" of 112 (2/3) would be even better news for the opposition. Larger majorities give them progressively more control over the levers of power, most importantly allowing them to potentially shape the Supreme Court and change the fundamental principles of politics, including the rules that would govern a recall election of President Maduro, he continued. 

Raderstorf cautioned that the future will be challenging time for Venezuela.

"The coming years will not be easy.  The opposition must carefully manage power, finding ways to challenge the Maduro government while still cooperating enough to keep the country from falling into further chaos," he noted.

Maduro accepted the election results calling it "a slap in the face, to awaken us what comes next in the party's future." His job maintaining power, against both a potential recall election and against internal struggles within his party, has only gotten harder Raderstorf says. Reports of him potentially being forced out in the near future are likely overblown. Without him, the PSUV faces a power vacuum and will only have a more difficult time holding on to the executive against a clearly buoyant opposition he said.

Though MUD won the majority, many believe it was the poor economy that was the cause for the win. Citizens are tired of Maduro's government and on Sunday punished him for a bad economy. The real change will have to be economic. Venezuela is suffering from the highest inflation in the region, a shortage of basic food, like rice, milk and beans. Medicine is also scarce.

Though the opposition was splintered in the last election and did not participate in 2012, this time it was different. Raderstorf noted that "the credit for this victory goes not to any individuals, but instead to the overwhelming sense of unity on the part of the opposition. Above all, it was their ability to maintain a united front--without necessarily following key leaders--that won the day," he said.

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