The scale of the defeat the socialist government suffered in Sunday’s election is so great that both victors and losers can’t seem to absorb it. After two days of delay, the country’s central election commission finally confirmed the opposition won the critical two-thirds of seats in the National Assembly that will allow it to override presidential vetoes, remove members of the Supreme Court and even form a constituent assembly to rewrite the Hugh Chavez-dictated Constitution that has been in place since 1999.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has emerged to claim the opposition’s victory wasn’t real, and was instead the work of a “counter revolution” aimed at undermining his government. He says he won’t be cowed by the opposition’s landslide legislative election victory, and is promising to continue deepening the country’s socialist revolution.
Speaking from the mausoleum of the late President Hugo Chavez Tuesday night, Maduro said he would fight the new opposition Congress, singling out one they are likely to pass that would free imprisoned leaders of the opposition. No one thinks that Maduro or his Cuban patrons (who control much of his security apparatus) will give up power easily.
That said, the Venezuelan military has taken note of the people’s anger at the Maduro government and are likely to exercise some pressure on it to accept the popular will. They have little desire to shoot against their own citizenry.
For now, it is up to the opposition to try to keep its disparate factions united and to focus on showing it can improve the country’s devastated economy with the limited powers it has to exercise policy.
Lovers of freedom should also study the opposition’s victory carefully. The Chavista government pulled out all of the stops to block its victory. As Investor’s Business Daily noted:
They have broken election rules, violated ballot secrecy, shut voters out and banned popular candidates from running. Many of those dirty tricks were evident in this election, too — the Chavistas illegally extended voting hours and campaigned at polling stations, to cite just a couple of examples. But the opposition won anyway — with turnout so high, at 74.5%, and margins of victory so wide that the election was impossible to steal. It helped that the the opposition had the wind at its back with the disastrous result of socialism. But it also helped that MUD had improved its electoral game over the years, learning from each near-miss election.
The Venezuelan results are proof that sometimes in countries with severe limits on those fighting for freedom, the people can still rise up and use non-violence and the ballot box to effect social change.