Today is a crucial day for Venezuela. For the first time in 17 years, the opposition to Chávez’s governing party will take charge of the National Assembly, defying the Supreme Court of Justice. The margin in its favor is large enough to make President Nicolás Maduro’s life miserable or to create a power crisis with an unpredictable outcome.
The victory of the Mesa de Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unity Table, or MUD) party in December gave the National Assembly 112 deputies from the opposition, exactly two-thirds. This grants the Legislature enormous power to censor ministers, propose constitutional reform and carry out referenda, among others. The ruling party presented seven legal challenges to the Supreme Court, which only recognized the one from the state of Amazonas. Claiming that the Right bought votes, the Court suspended four of the elected representatives, three from the opposition and one from the ruling party.
The decision was considered by MUD as a “judicial coup,” as it took away their supermajority, but the plan to swear in their 112 deputies still stands. The Court’s independence was already called into question after the 1999 reform that instituted 32 judges who were named by Chávez’s regime through the years. The decision is diplomatic: It acknowledges that the opposition won but takes away its clout by reducing its representation in the Assembly.
Simultaneously, the 168 members of the Parlamento Comunal Nacional (National Communal Parliament) are meeting to try to defend the social laws approved by the government of Hugo Chávez that could be revoked by the Assembly. It is not known if they will challenge legislative authority.
Maduro’s government was not prepared for defeat, much less for having the new National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup tell the President to “think about resigning.”
That is why there is great expectation about what could happen in Venezuela today. We hope that the opposition will be able to swear in their 112 representatives and that the ruling party recognizes the magnitude of their defeat.
Today, the MUD must control their impulse to undo everything created by the Chavismo. That would be their worst mistake. Changes are necessary to help the economy recover in order to see a future. This is no time to settle old scores.