Opposition Triumphs in Venezuela, But Hold the Champagne

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In elections on December 6th, Venezuela’s democratic opposition won a supermajority—112 of 167 seats in the legislature, the election authority has confirmed. The opposition won 109 seats, and three other elected members from indigenous parties will ally with them.

The truism that democracy does not depend only on what happens on election day usually casts doubt on exercises that confirm autocrats and dictators in power. The election result raises a different problem. The election wasn’t free and fair. Political opposition figures were jailed, violence was a constant threat, and the regime has strangled the independent media. The opposition triumphed anyway. What happens when the opposition scores big gains but still doesn’t win control of the executive?

Of course, the Venezuelan opposition’s problem is one that lots of other democracy movements from Russia to China would like to have. Nevertheless, it comes with its own troubles. “A tyranny continues to be a tyranny despite holding election,” as Moisés Naím wrote, “even if it allows itself to occasionally lose them.” In advance of the election, President Nicolás Maduro as much as vowed to go around the legislature if necessary. Since election day, the ruling party’s Twitter feed has sent out images of Stalin and Lenin, and Maduro himself has been casting the opposition as “counterrevolutionaries.”

- Read the remainder of this post for free at Democracy Road, FPI Senior Fellow Ellen Bork's blog at World Affairs Journal

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