Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has never had a chance to move into his country’s official presidential palace, which is still occupied by the daughter of his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez. And after yesterday’s crushing legislative defeat, odds are that Maduro will never need to call the movers. The prospects of him completing his term, which ends in 2019, are growing dimmer by the day.
“I’m not sure if Maduro can survive this,’’ Vanessa Neumann, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told me. “He faces the threat from the opposition as well as a palace coup. I give him less than a 50 percent chance of finishing his term in office.” An ashen-faced Maduro acknowledged defeat early this morning, saying that his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) would accept the results, which had been projected by most polls.
According to the National Electoral Council, the Democratic Unity coalition (known by its Spanish acronym MUD), won at least 99 of the 167 seats in the National Assembly. The PSUV won 46, and 22 remain too close to call. The MUD won about 58 percent of the popular vote that has so far been tallied, with the PSUV trailing at 42 percent.
The Electoral Council is expected to release full results later on Monday. If the MUD wins 112 seats, the party will have a supermajority, which would allow it to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution and start procedures to hold a recall referendum against Maduro. Even with 99 seats, the party will be able to pass an amnesty law to free political prisoners and set the legislative agenda.
“The country wants change, and that change is beginning today,” MUD’s leader, Jesus Torrealba, told cheering supporters after Maduro conceded. “We won’t persecute or condemn those who think differently than we do.” Outside the MUD’s headquarters, jubilant supporters lit fireworks and honked car horns.
The MUD’s victory, which had been forecast by most public opinion polls albeit with much lower margins, dealt a body Chavismo, the social movement created by Chavez. It was also the latest strike against leftist regimes in the region, following the election of a conservative business leader in Argentina and moves to impeach Brazil’s president.
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