The beginning of the end for Chavismo?

Venezuela’s opposition has won a landslide victory, unseating the ruling socialist party for the first time in 16 years. An alliance of opposition parties took 107 seats in the country’s National Assembly in elections on Sunday, equal to a so-called “supermajority” of 64%. The ruling party held just 55 seats.

With a majority of over 60%, the alliance now has the power to change the constitution and may even push to unseat the president, Nicolás Maduro, the handpicked successor to former president Hugo Chávez. “Change has started in Venezuela,” opposition leader Jesus Torrealba told a press conference.

“It isn’t every day that a police state takes such a beating at the polls,” says Kejal Vyas in The Wall Street Journal. Turning around Venezuela’s economy, however, looks nigh on impossible. The country is suffering from food shortages, double-digit inflation and a collapse in the bolivar, accompanied by a sharp rise in the murder rate. According to the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela’s economy will shrink by at least 10% this year.

President Maduro’s populist policies, including four minimum wage hikes in the last year, have helped to stoke inflation, but will be politically difficult to reverse. And for now, the military is also tacitly backing Maduro, who retains “a near-complete grip on all other branches of government”, says The Washington Post, including the supreme court, which is packed with his appointees.

Lifting food price controls, releasing political prisoners and easing capital controls are all now on the agenda, but “winning the election may have been the easy part”, says Vyas. “Breathing life into the economy will be no small feat.”

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