Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party has reportedly won Venezuela’s legislative election held Dec. 6. With the win, Maduro retains control of the country’s national assembly and solidifies his grip on power.
Maduro’s Big Win
According to the country’s electoral authority, Maduro’s party alliance received almost 68 percent of the vote. The opposition — which partially ran campaigns despite its leader Juan Guaidó’s call for a boycott — received a meager 18 percent of the vote.
Maduro was confident of victory. After casting his vote on Sunday he declared that a new era was beginning in Venezuela as part of “a truly democratic process to rebuild our beloved fatherland.”
Around 14,000 candidates from more than a hundred parties competed for the 227 seats in the National Assembly, though the voter turnout was just 31 percent. The new legislators will be sworn into office Jan. 5.
Opposition Leader Guaidó: ‘the Election is a Fraud’
A large part of the opposition parties had called for a boycott of the elections — above all the National Assembly validated acting-president Juan Guaidó. They stated that the minimum conditions for democratic elections were not in place.
“The election is a fraud of the dictatorship led by Nicolás Maduro and will only exacerbate the crisis in the country,” wrote the Foreign Minister of Guaidó’s acting-government Julio Borges in an open letter to the international community on election day.
“What Venezuela needs are free presidential and parliamentary elections.”
Maduro Tightens His Grip on Power
With the victory, Maduro and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela or PSUV) now control all of the country’s political institutions. The result is a significant setback for the opposition in Venezuela. It previously had a majority in the National Assembly and organized the resistance against Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian socialist government.
Western reactions to Maduro’s victory were outraged. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the result “a fraud and a sham” and that the result “will not reflect the will of the Venezuelan people.”
Moreover, a group of sixteen Western nations signed a letter rejecting the result and denouncing the election.
More Than 50 Countries Consider Guaidó to be Venezuela’s President
In 2019, the National Assembly appointed its chairman Guaidó as acting president, recognized by more than 50 countries, including the EU and the US. However, he never succeeded in asserting himself against Maduro. The authoritarian ruling head of state is supported in the power struggle by the nation’s powerful military. The United Nations accuses the security forces of serious human rights violations, but sanctions by the US have not succeeded in lessening the power of Maduro or his loyalist troops. An attempt in May by a mercenary force to bring about an armed overthrow of the Maduro government also failed.
Moreover, while Guaidó had initially managed to unite the opposition behind him, the rifts between moderate government opponents and hardliners came to light again with continued failure.
The opposition is now back to square one. With his boycott, Guaidó loses not only his seat in parliament but also his position as chairman of the National Assembly and thus the legitimation for his claim as acting president.
Venezuela Approaches Full Collapse
Meanwhile, the once-wealthy country is steering deeper and deeper into an economic and humanitarian crisis. Once comparatively prosperous — and still oil-rich — Venezuela has been in a deep crisis for years. Corruption, nepotism, and a strict US embargo against Maduro have caused the economy to collapse.
The country faces the world’s highest inflation rate, and the national currency is hardly worth the paper it’s printed on. Power outages occur regularly, and there is a lack of food, fuel, and life-saving medicine.
Five million Venezuelans have left their country in recent years because of poverty, hardship, and political persecution. With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the situation has worsened again significantly.
Many Venezuelans have given up and trust neither the opposition nor the government. Instead they are more concerned with their daily survival. This helps explain the low turnout in Sunday’s election. According to surveys, hardly anyone wants to take part in the upcoming opposition referendum either.
Despite this low turnout, President Maduro is now more firmly in the saddle than ever and the country faces even more uncertainty and instability in years to come.