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2015 Parliamentary Elections

Venezuela's parliamentary election were held on 06 December 2015. Candidates campaigned for the National Assembly's 165 seats. With Venezuela's economy in recession, oil revenues plunging and consumers facing chronic shortages of basic goods, the opposition's chances are looking bright at the forthcoming election. According to a survey conducted by polling firm Datanalisis in April 2015, Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and their allies pulled in just 25 percent of votes, compared to 45.8 percent for the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD).

Venezuela's opposition coalition announced July 23, 2015 that it would list candidates on a single ballot card in the 06 December 2015 parliamentary elections, signaling a commitment to unity.

By the end of 2015, the economic, political, and social situation in Venezuela was very complicated, which made it difficult for outsiders to make sense of. On the one hand there were many people who defended the Bolivarian revolution, pointing to the successes it had in reducing poverty and inequality and in increasing citizen participation and self-governance. Maduro and his supporters called political opponents termed "fascists" or "imperialists", critics from friendly parties abroad are called "traitors", "minions" or simply "scum".

On the other hand, there was a chorus of critics, not just from the usual suspects on the political right, but often from the left, who criticized the Maduro government’s economic management of the country, corruption, the high inflation rate and shortages.

Pre-election polls suggested the opposition could win against the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) government for the first time in 16 years. A nationwide survey by pollsters Datanalisis in November estimated some 55.6 percent of voters would back opposition candidates, while 36.8 percent would support government ones. About 19.5 million people were eligible to elect lawmakers to the 167-seat National Assembly during the 06 December 2015 ballot, which was widely seen as a de-facto referendum on the economic leadership of President Nicolas Maduro.

Even if the broad coalition of opposition groups, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), won the most votes, under Venezuela's electoral system it was unclear how that would translate to seats in the National Assembly. Because Venezuela’s electoral system does not allot seats in the assembly based on the national vote, in theory the ruling government coalition could win a majority of seats with 42 percent of the vote. Venezuela is a parliamentary system, and this was not a presidential election. Observers didn't expect real change, as the government was too intent on staying in power.

The opposition - with some districts yet to be counted as of 07 December 2015 - had won 99 of the 167 seats in the National Assembly, with the Socialist party winning just 46 seats. President Nicolas Maduro said in a televised address he recognized what he called the "adverse results." Maduro stated, “The opposition hasn’t won, a counterrevolution has won.”

If the opposition achievef a two-thirds majority - 112 sets - in the National Assembly, revoking the presidency of Nicolas Maduro was their top priority, said MUD representatives 07 December 2015 in a news conference in Spain. Manuel Rodriguez, an opposition movement coordinator, said he thought once all the votes have been counted the MUD will end up with the coveted two-thirds majority needed to request a recall referendum on President Maduro, saying "the constitution allows it and we're going to do it."

The coalition also planned to provide amnesty for its list of at least 70 people in prison for causing the 2014 violence which left 43 dead, the most high-profile of whom is Leopoldo Lopez, who was sentenced in September to over 13 years in prison for public incitement to violence and association to commit crimes during fatal protests, which were orchestrated by Lopez and other opposition leaders. Maduro said that he plans to veto any proposals for an amnesty law for what opposition forces refer to as political prisoners, such as jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

The Venezuelan opposition MUD coalition took control of the National Assembly in the election, winning 109 seats of a total 167 while. Representatives holding three indigenous seats are also likely to side with the opposition given their right-wing alliances, bringing the opposition block to a two-thirds majority with a total of 112 seats.

The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) party got 112 seats after all the votes have been counted, while President Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela got 55, according to the national electoral council on 09 December 2015. MUD received 109 seats, as well as three seats reserved for the representatives of Venezuela’s indigenous peoples. In order to have parliamentary majority in the country, a party needs to have 111 out of 167 seats. This gives it the right to conduct referendums and change constitution.

On 07 January 2016 Venezuela's parliament – the National Assembly – swore in three anti-government lawmakers in defiance of Maduro, who had won a Supreme Court injunction barring them from the parliament. The move gave the opposition a super-majority in the legislative body, enabling it to restrict Maduro's powers, remove Supreme Court judges, appoint key officials and even rewrite the constitution.

Socialist lawmakers denounced the National Assembly's decision to swear in the three lawmakers and ignore the injunction by the Supreme Court, saying it had violated the constitution. "This assembly has totally lost its legitimacy," they said.

But there is nothing in National Assembly guidelines that suggests that a party would need 112 deputies to hold a two-thirds majority: only that it needs a majority “of those present.” Therefore, without the banned lawmakers (and a further PSUV lawmaker suspended for the same reasons) MUD would still have held a two-thirds supermajority — 109 out of 163 instead of 112 out of 167 — allowing it to make sweeping changes, including calling a recall referendum on President Nicolas Maduro and overhauling the constitution.

The opposition had waited more than 15 years to regain power of institutions, and has now shown its impatience to derail the socialist government. Newly-elected National Assembly Speaker Henry Ramos Allup said he would find a way to have Maduro ousted within six months. Maduro's presidential term will end in 2019. In response to the speakers' comments, Maduro said that he "will be there to defend democracy with an iron hand. They will not make me give ground or waver." He also reacted to the opinion polls saying the opposition could continue to win in the polls but "we will win in the streets."

On 13 January 2016 the three Venezuelan politicians of the right-wing MUD coalition decided to follow the rule of law and accept the Supreme Court ruling that suspended their election victories until an investigation into allegations of vote buying was concluded. The court ordered that all candidates elected in the state of Amazonas be temporarily suspended while an investigation is conducted. Without the banned lawmakers (and a further socialist party lawmaker suspended for the same reasons) the MUD would still have held a two-thirds supermajority — 109 out of 163 instead of 112 out of 167 — allowing it to make sweeping changes, including calling a recall referendum on President Nicolas Maduro and overhauling the constitution.

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Page last modified: 31-03-2016 19:38:21 ZULU