President Nicholas Maduro’s socialist allies lost big to the Democratic Unity coalition in Venezuela, as it has now been officially confirmed that a supermajority of congressional seats. An epic power struggle is now all but assured, as the WSJ reports:
President Maduro’s United Socialist Party, for its part, issued a call to defend its self-styled revolution, tweeting out images of former Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin and demanding “no whining” from its supporters.
The National Electoral Council reported that the opposition Democratic Unity coalition won 109 seats. Three indigenous representatives allied with the opposition were also elected, giving the opposition the two-thirds majority needed to remove Supreme Court justices, pass laws and draft a new constitution, a move that could end Mr. Maduro’s tenure.
Since its drubbing in the midterm elections, the government has shown no inclination to tone down its rhetoric or change the statist economic policies like price controls that economists blame for the country’s deepest economic crisis since independence.
The news from Venezuela is both good and bad. The supermajority won by the Democratic Unity coalition shows that the Socialist government was unable to prevent (at least somewhat) free and fair elections.
But the bad news is that the power struggle has just begun. The Socialists have shown a willingness and ability to undermine opposition victories before. When an opposition leader won the mayoral election in Caracas in 2008, Hugo Chávez let him rule but transferred the purse strings of the mayor’s office over to himself. And with the Socialist Party tweeting out photos of those great and peaceful leaders Lenin and Stalin, the potential for violence in the Venezuelan politics is high. Indeed, with Venezuelan society deeply divided and with the army also in the pocket of a revolutionary government committed to holding on to power at all costs, a civil war in the oil-rich nation cannot be wholly ruled out.
A conflict would inevitably affect the security and stability of its neighbors. The countries of the region need to begin to think about how to prevent anything like a civil war in Venezuela, and how to protect the democratically elected legislature. For an Obama administration that has far more on its plate then it can handle, this is terrible news. For the first time in many years, the United States faces a potentially serious security threat in the Western Hemisphere. That fact cannot be wished away.