Venezuela Opposition Wins; Can It Boost The Cash-Poor, Oil-Rich Economy?


Venezuela’s opposition rejoiced on Monday after its victory in legislative elections. If the final tally showed a two-thirds supermajority, it could dramatically wrest power from President Nicolas Maduro after 17 years of socialist rule, reported NYT.

According to AAP, results from Sunday’s election are still not in, but on Monday the Democratic Unity coalition claimed it had won a commanding majority in the 167-member National Assembly.

The 53-year-old Maduro, hand-picked by Chavez, quickly accepted defeat in a speech to the nation on Monday that calmed fears of violence in a country long riven by political strife.

Opposition leaders say final tallies show they have reached the crucial bar of two-thirds, but this was not confirmed by electoral authorities which still have 22 seats to announce.

The opposition also wants to pass an amnesty law for jailed opponents of Maduro when the new assembly begins work on January 5.

Venezuela’s best-known jailed politician is Leopoldo Lopez, who was sentenced to nearly 14 years on charges of promoting political violence in 2014 that killed 43 people.

Investors reacted positively to the OPEC nation’s swing away from the left, with dollar bonds rising strongly on hopes of business-friendly change.

On the official count by the election board, the opposition had 99 seats to the socialists’ 46, with 22 seats yet to be announced.

The opposition can now exercise control over the budget, begin investigations that could embarrass the government, and fire ministers.

Coalition head Jesus Torrealba said the opposition would seek to modify the Central Bank law, in an effort to reduce indiscriminate printing of money that has driven the world’s highest rate of inflation.

“The United States congratulates the people of Venezuela for making their voices heard in a peaceful and democratic way on election day,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“Venezuelan voters expressed their overwhelming desire for a change in the direction of their country. Dialogue among all parties in Venezuela is necessary to address the social and economic challenges facing the country.”

Mr. Kerry also said the US, which has fraught ties with the governments of leftist Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, stood at the ready to support the process “together with others in the international community”.

The White House said the election results showed a clear desire for change and were “encouraging”.

“The people of Venezuela have expressed their overwhelming desire for a change in direction,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

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