For the first time in 17 years, Venezuelans handed the governing party a defeat. Amid a historic economic contraction, 200 percent inflation, food and medicine shortages and the world's second-highest murder rate, voters headed to the polls for the Dec. 6 parliamentary elections. Given slumping approval ratings for President Nicolas Maduro's government, the alliance of opposition parties known as the Democratic Unity coalition won 112 seats—a crucial two-thirds majority—in the country's unicameral National Assembly. The government's coalition took just 55 seats. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, "Venezuelan voters expressed their overwhelming desire for a change in the direction of their country."
The newly elected legislature will take office on January 5, and for those of us following closely, the big question is: How will the Democratic Unity coalition, after years in the opposition, administer its new legislative authority?
With its big majority, the Democratic Unity coalition can approve budgets, investigate government agencies, question ministers and the central bank president on their performances (the government has stopped publishing inflation indexes), sack ministers, name directors of the elections council, propose constitutional reforms via referendums, and call for a presidential referendum.
The members of the coalition have said that their first priority will be an amnesty law to free political prisoners; human rights groups say there are about 80 political prisoners in the country....