Venezuela opposition win to shift 17 years of Chavista rule

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Opposition leaders, from left to right, Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, Freddy Guevara, of the Voluntad Popular party, Jesus Torrealba, head of the Democratic Unity Movement (MUD) party and deputy Julio Borges celebrate in Caracas, Venezuela, early Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Alejandro Cegarra)

Venezuela’s opposition won control of the National Assembly by a landslide, stunning the ruling party and altering the balance of power 17 years after the late Hugo Chavez kicked off the nation’s socialist revolution.

CCTV America’s Stephen Gibbs reports from Caracas, Venezuela.

Venezuela opposition wins in landslide victory

Venezuela opposition wins in landslide victory

Venezuela's opposition won control of the National Assembly by a landslide, stunning the ruling party and altering the balance of power 17 years after the late Hugo Chavez kicked off the nation's socialist revolution. CCTV America's Stephen Gibbs reports.
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The opposition coalition won at least 99 seats in the incoming 167-seat legislature, while the ruling socialist party won 46 seats according to electoral authorities early Monday. The opposition coalition needs to take 13 of the 22 remaining races to give it a two-thirds super majority. That would allow it to pass major legislation, sack Supreme Court justices or convene a convention to rewrite Chavez’s 1999 constitution.


Academic George Ciccariello-Maher on Venezuela’s opposition victory
Academic George Ciccariello-Maher on Venezuela\'s opposition victory

Academic George Ciccariello-Maher on Venezuela\'s opposition victory

CCTV America's Phillip TK Yin spoke with George Ciccariello-Maher. He is a writer and an associate professor of politics at Drexel University.
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CCTV America’s Phillip TK Yin spoke with George Ciccariello-Maher. He is a writer and an associate professor of politics at Drexel University.
Follow Phillip Yin on Twitter @PhillipTKYin

The wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, Lilian Tintori celebrates after knowing the first results of the legislative election, at the MUD headquarters in Caracas, on the early morning December 7, 2015. Venezuela's opposition won --at least--a majority of 99 out of 167 seats in the state legislature, electoral authorities said Monday, the first such shift in power in congress in 16 years. AFP PHOTO/JUAN BARRETO

Lilian Tintori celebrates after knowing the first results of the legislative election, at the MUD headquarters in Caracas, on the early morning December 7, 2015. (AFP Photo/Juan Barreto)

The victory is likely to fuel demands for President Nicolas Maduro to free jailed opponents and roll back socialist policies during what could be a period of intense political conflict in a deeply polarized country mired in economic crisis.


Researcher Bruno Binetti on expectations after Venezuela’s opposition win

Venezuela guest bruno 2

Researcher Bruno Binetti on expectations after Venezuela's opposition win

Researcher Bruno Binetti on expectations after Venezuela's opposition win

Venezuela's opposition won control of the National Assembly by a landslide, stunning the ruling party and altering the balance of power 17 years after the late Hugo Chavez kicked off the nation's socialist revolution.
Download Video


The streets of Caracas broke out in shouts of joy, fireworks and car honking after National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena announced the partial results six hours after polls closed.

Opposition supporters celebrate in Caracas, Venezuela, early Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. Venezuela's opposition has won control of the National Assembly by a landslide. Election officials say Venezuela's opposition won at least 99 seats in the incoming 167-seat National Assembly and the ruling socialist party 46.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Opposition supporters celebrate in Caracas, Venezuela, early Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Within seconds, Maduro recognized the opposition’s win, saying that despite an adverse result, Venezuela’s democracy had triumphed.

Maduro recalled the long history of U.S.-supported coups in Latin America in blaming the “circumstantial” loss on a conservative “counterrevolution” trying to sabotage the oil-dependent economy and destabilize his rule, “I can say today that the economic war has triumphed,” said Maduro, surrounded by his party’s top leadership, at the presidential palace.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro recognized the election results during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Dec. 7, 2015. Xinhua Photo.

Opposition leaders wept with emotion and drank champagne as the results were announced. Many seemed stunned with the win. Some cautioned that the result had more to do with anger at Venezuela’s woes than an embrace of opposition parties.

“The opposition needs to accept this with a lot of humility,” said political consultant Francisco Marquez, who managed one of the winning opposition campaigns. “This was a punishment vote and we will need to show people that we’re up to the task.”

The opposition coalition, which is made of up more than a dozen parties that have historically competed among themselves for power, has pledged to use its new-found leverage to pass an amnesty for dozens of opponents jailed during last year’s protests.

Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, yells in Spanish: "For the freedom of political prisoners" as she holds up her electronic voting receipt before placing it in a box during congressional elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. Polls show the opposition coalition holding a 30 point lead ahead of Sunday's congressional election. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Lilian Tintori yells in Spanish: “For the freedom of political prisoners” as she holds up her electronic voting receipt before placing it in a box during congressional elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Leaders offered few other concrete policy proposals during the camping, and it’s unclear whether politicians who have spent their entire political careers railing against the socialist party’s monopoly on power will be able to govern with Maduro.

Hardliners are already vowing to seek a recall referendum to cut short Maduro’s term before it ends in 2019.

“As soon as January comes, it’s amnesty for political prisoners, constitutional reform, a recall referendum. Radical change,” said Popular Will politician Alfredo Jimeno.

Voter turnout was a stunning 74 percent, the highest for a parliamentary vote since compulsory voting ended in the 1990s, as Venezuelans punished Maduro’s government for widespread shortages, a plunging currency and triple-digit inflation. Xinhua Photo.

The opposition victory deals a serious setback to the socialist revolution launched by Hugo Chavez, who until his death in 2013 had an almost-magical hold on Venezuela’s long-excluded masses.

Nicolas Maduro, who became president after Chavez died, still has a near-complete grip on other branches of government like the Supreme Court, so he can easily outflank a hostile congress if it lacks a super-majority. And some have already floated the idea that outgoing lawmakers will pass a law granting Maduro special decree powers to ride roughshod over the new congress, which won’t be sworn in until January.

Pro-govermment supporters listens to a radio as he wait for results of congressional elections at Plaza Bolivar, in downtown in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. Venezuela's opposition has won control of the National Assembly by a landslide. Election officials say Venezuela's opposition won at least 99 seats in the incoming 167-seat National Assembly and the ruling socialist party 46. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Pro-govermment supporters listens to a radio as he wait for results of congressional elections at Plaza Bolivar, in downtown in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Voting Sunday was mostly peaceful, though several ruling party governors were caught on film braving boos and insults as they entered their polling places.

The socialists lost even in Hugo Chavez’s home state of Barinas, where the late Chavez’s brother Adan is governor and several family members hold high office. In the capital, the opposition won by almost 20 percentage points.

National police officers lineup in front of the main entrance of a polling station as pro-government supporters demand that the polling station reopen, during congressional elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. Some members of the opposition are angry after elections officials ordered polling centers to stay open for an extra hour, even if no one was standing in line to vote. Government opponents mobbed some voting stations demanding that the National Guard stick to the original schedule of closing at 6 p.m. (AP Photo/Alejandro Cegarra)

National police officers lined up in front of the main entrance of a polling station as pro-government supporters demand that the polling station reopen, during congressional elections in Caracas, Dec. 6, 2015. Some members of the opposition were angry after elections officials ordered polling centers to stay open for an extra hour, even if no one was standing in line to vote. Government opponents mobbed some voting stations demanding that the National Guard stick to the original schedule of closing at 6 p.m. (AP Photo/Alejandro Cegarra)

Maduro had repeatedly vowed in recent weeks to take to the streets and defend Chavez’s legacy if his party lost, but on Sunday night he softened his tone, urging his supporters to calmly regroup from the loss.

“I call on all of our people to recognize in peace these results and re-evaluate many political aspects of the revolution,” he said.

A pro-government supporter wears a T-Shirt with image of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez, as he waits for results during congressional elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Alejandro Cegarra)

A pro-government supporter wears a T-Shirt with image of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez, as he waits for results during congressional elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Alejandro Cegarra)

Some government supporters are already bracing for a fight, however.

“Now everything will just get worse. The Chavistas will go to war with the opposition,” said Diana Areaz, who waited with her friend who makes a living dressing up as Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara to hear the results.

For Areaz, who was 8 years old when Chavez came to power, the defeat was unimaginable.

“I’ve only ever known one government. But the truth is Maduro abandoned the revolution, and now it’s hardly a revolution at all,” she said.

Information from CCTV America Digital and The Associated Press