This week may have marked the beginning of the end of President Hugo Chávez’s decade-long grip on power in Venezuela—or at least the weakening of his self-described “socialist revolution.” The legislative elections in the country saw the opposition clench enough seats to end the president’s two-thirds majority in the national assembly, making it impossible for Chávez to pass laws unopposed and appoint judges and other key officials.
Opposition groups, now part of the country’s political decision-making again, hope this is the first step toward unseating Chávez. They plan to start imposing checks on the president. But it remains to be seen whether Chávez—a vocal critic of the U.S.—will behave in a more democratic manner. “He has never treated the opposition as a political rival,” said former Venezuelan trade minister Moisés Naím, “but rather a mortal enemy.”
Though anti-Chávez candidates say they won 52 per cent of the popular vote, Chávez’s hold on rural areas means that this support did not translate into proportional seats. The opposition declared victory anyway, saying these gains have weakened the president ahead of 2012, when Chávez is expected to seek a third term.