Javier Corrales, professor of political science at Amherst College, participated in a conference call with AS/COA to discuss Venezuela's political scenario given President Hugo Chávez's poor health. Though it is still incomplete, "Venezuela has entered into a period of succession," Corrales said. "For the first time, Chávez himself has recognized there needs to be a plan of action."
First, Corrales spoke about the country's regional elections held on December 16. The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 20 of 23 governorships, but Governor Henrique Capriles won reelection in Miranda state—a victory which would make him a presidential contender again should elections take place in the near future. Next, Corrales discussed likely scenarios if Chávez steps down due to his illness. Vice President Nicolás Maduro would temporarily take over and according to the consitution, elections must be held within 30 days of a president leaving office. Maduro would then serve as the governing party candidate during presidential elections, and Corrales said he he has a good chance of winning. However, Corrales noted that Maduro may face challenges in keeping the PSUV united. Though Chávez hand-picked some of the newly elected PSUV governors, they may show more of an allegiance with their constituents than with Maduro, Corrales explained.
Listen to a podcast of the conference call: