Socialists Defeated in Venezuela
Socialists in Venezuela were trounced in parliamentary elections Sunday in a stunning defeat for the first time in 16 years.
Despite Venezuela being the world’s second-largest oil exporter and having the world’s largest oil reserves, the country wound up having the world’s second-worst economy – performing only better, debatably, than Zimbabwe.
Hyperinflation and day-long cues for necessities, spurred by the crash of the international oil market, prompted three-quarters of Venezuelans to cue in the sun to register their anger at the management of the country.
The Chavista government – airs to the movement Hugo Chavez created back in the 1990’s – had won all but one of the previous 19 elections. The one they lost was actually a referendum to expand the presidential powers of Chavez.
It was very late, about 1am local time, when the first election results were announced. The Chavistas had occupied 99 of the 167-seat national assembly. After the final votes were counted, the opposition coalition had exactly that number – 99, with the Socialists having only 46 seats, and 2 remaining seats to be declared.
Those remaining two seats are crucial because, should they fall into the opposition camp, it would mean they take a two-thirds control of the Venezuelan parliament.
The election result was described as a “political earthquake” and “on the outer edges of what anyone was predicting” by Phil Gunson of the International Crisis Group.
Hailing the victory, Jesus Torrealba, one of the opposition’s leading figures, told followers, “Venezuela wanted a change, and that change has begun.”
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, the heir to the Chavez legacy, appeared on state television after the final vote and conceded defeat.
Trying to put a brave face on a terrible routing, Maduro framed the country’s problems as an economic war being waged against Venezuela from both inside and outside forces.
“Looking at these results, we have come here with our high moral and ethical standards to acknowledge these adverse results and accept them, and to tell our Venezuela that our constitution and democracy have triumphed,” he said. “We accept these results as they came from the electorate.”
The defeat of the Socialists comes as a massive symbolic overturn, as the party has historically viewed itself as being of the Venezuelan people.
“What it means is that there is a really good chance now that the terrible social-economic-political crisis in the country can be resolved through peaceful negotiations, and without violence,” Gunson noted to the BBC.
The coalition of opposition forces that banded together to defeat the Socialists now face their own issues. Some will want to push for a referendum to remove Maduro from the presidency, while others will seek to continue along the democratic route.