The fact that the parliamentary elections held in Venezuela on Sunday, December 6, had overtones comparable to a presidential vote, was no accident.
The fate of a social revolution which has lasted 17 years, against the tide of the universal capitalist model and in resistance to foreign contempt and the boycott from the enemy within, hangs in the balance. Its immediate future will be decided by the balance of power resulting from the recent elections, which will signal either continuity or reversal.
The world knows this, and watched on expectantly as the democratic exercise unfolded, attended by over 12,000 media professionals and international observers from a range of tendencies, with the real possibility of a change in the correlation of forces given the artificial circumstances that had been created, fuelled by the media, the economic oligarchy and many others.
As the result of a well-thought out and better articulated strategy, the opposition bloc secured an unusual win over chavismo, a resounding victory which demonstrates the scale of the psychological warfare waged through deliberately generated shortages, forced speculation and ideological subversion in the media, together with the global alienation of the long-established right wing.
Those actually responsible for the daily difficulties suffered by Venezuelan families, severely damaging the confidence of a decisive sector of the masses in the Bolivarian government, received the benefit of a majority vote from their victims, whether motivated by frustration or “sheer luck”, which ultimately secured them 112 of the 167 seats in the National Assembly.
This result means that opposition forces have secured the maximum legislative powers within this body, with two-thirds of the seats, allowing them to reverse the progress seen in the country.
What could the opposition bloc in the National Assembly do with such powers?
The first doubts that arise surround the figure of the constitutional President of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro Moros.
Removing the chavista leader from power continues to be a priority and holds extraordinary force within the discourse of the main leaders of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). Given the legal means of launching a maneuver to this end, it cannot be ruled out that this will be the first thing they attempt, even before repealing, modifying or proposing any new laws.
They could seek to attack him from all sides, with the possibility of declaring an “absolute absence” of the President of the Republic after 90 days of temporary absence; or refusing to approve trips abroad of more than five days; a limitation that given the current circumstances with depressed oil prices, for example, could prevent Maduro from devoting sufficient time to negotiations with distant OPEC countries.
More serious options include that of declaring whether there are grounds or not for an impeachment process by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), or declaring the permanent physical or mental incapacity of the president, as long as this is certified by a medical board designated by the TSJ.
What would be the arguments for an impeachment process against Maduro? Surely the same fabrications that have been repeated for some time by the media and spokespeople of several NGOs: human rights violations, corruption, drug trafficking, etc.
However, the most likely possibility according to global spectators is the convening of a recall referendum; although various analysts note that this will not be the most immediate choice, at least not before attempting other moves. Venezuelan Professor, Luis Pino, speaking to TeleSUR stated:
“Right now, the right will exacerbate the shortages scheduled for about two months more and initiate proceedings against President Nicolás Maduro and his ministers, to remove them and morally assassinate them and, should they be impeded along the way, as a last resort call for a recall referendum. But they view this as difficult to win, and it would not guarantee the exit of the 55 chavista deputies elected, or the 20 governors of the revolution, or the more than 200 mayoralties controlled by chavismo.
“They need, and this is the order from the United States, to create social turmoil that would justify the exit of chavismo from all spaces of national life; without allowing the electoral support of December 6 to cool off. For the right, the “exit” of Nicolás Maduro and bastions such as Diosdado Cabello is urgent.”
However, in order to carry out these and other fatal attacks against the revolution, the parliamentary majority will require the approval of the TSJ, and more specifically of the judges of the Constitutional Chamber.
Therefore, removing and appointing its members will be a top priority. However, although having a two-thirds majority permits this, there are certain conditions that they may not circumvent, such as respecting the terms of office of each judge, or only replacing them should they violate well-defined legal requirements.
Along with these powerful weapons, there are other possible reforms that could be highly damaging to the institutional order established by the revolution, and would at least slow progress and even revoke the social and economic laws which have brought increasing inclusion.
With two-thirds of the seats in the National Assembly, the Venezuelan opposition could, among other prerogatives:
• Issue a vote of no confidence in the Executive Vice President and ministers, resulting in their removal from office.
• Approve the operating expenses budget of the Central Bank of Venezuela, authorize the National Budget, as well as make amendments, and approve Extraordinary Credits.
• Approve or block enabling laws.
• Approve states of emergency and their prorogation.
• Approve draft amendments to the Constitution, with the support of 30% of the members of parliament.
• Approve the Initiative and Draft for Constitutional Reform, as well as convene a Constituent Assembly.
• Approve, reject or defer a bill.
• Approve draft organic laws – as well as modifications to existing ones – which are used to organize authorities and serve as a normative framework for other laws.
• Elect and remove the rectors of the National Electoral Council and the members of the Citizens Power branch of government.
• Submit bills to approbatory referendums.
Given the numerical advantage of the oligarchic bloc, a powerful concept promoted by the Bolivarian government within parliament will be respect for constitutionality.
Ombudsman Tarek William Saab has already warned that there are “constitutional balances” that limit the use of these powers, particularly when a tendency toward dismantling public authorities, or revoking laws that resulted in a positive leap in terms of human rights, are concerned.
There is the option of convening a National Constituent Assembly, with the power to draft a new Constitution that would signal a return to the past and do away with the progress seen since 1999; but it would be a long, complex battle, full of risks, which it would appear conservative sectors are not willing, for the moment, to take on.
For now, and with less than a month to go before the new Assembly is installed, the revolutionary leadership, in the spirit of Chávez, has demonstrated that the setback has been taken as a wake-up call.
Meanwhile, in response to each runaway announcement made by the most out of touch leaders of the right, regarding what they will do once installed, the Bolivarian government has thought fast and acted immediately, with the force of law, in order to block the counterrevolutionary attempts.
Already the current National Assembly has approved that the administrative control of the body’s own radio and television stations will be handed over to the workers, in response to the threats of layoffs from the notorious newly elected deputy, Henry Ramos Allup.
Similarly, in anticipation of the moves of the new legislature, they elected lawyer and judge Susana Barreiros as the new General Public Defender, whose term of office will have to be respected; as will be the case with the 13 judges of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) who, as Cabello announced, will be designated before the end of the current parliament.
As a forceful and conscious political response from the people, the street assembly movement continues to expand across the country, with a mass debate among the progressive ranks, seeking to critically analyze mistakes and launch a new strategy for struggle in defense of the revolution.
As seen in the streets, the parliamentary setback failed to silence the spirit of the chavista forces who, committed to peace, are clearly on the alert and the offensive.
What is certain is that the scenario in the new National Assembly will be that of a gladiator’s arena, with those committed to defending the government’s social emancipation project clashing against an opposition of resentful millionaires, who are already sharpening their claws for a battle against the people and absolutely anything that resembles chavismo.