Maduro wins election by thin margin; will have political and economic problems to manage

19 avril 2013
The slim margin between the two candidates led the opposition, which really won a “political victory” if we consider the emotional climate in Venezuela following the death of Hugo Chavez, contested the results and requested a recount.

From now on, Maduro’s government will face a series of challenges (political and economic). It is possible that Maduro will face difficulties to advance its so-called “XXI Century Socialism” because he lacks the political influence of Hugo Chávez. Not to mention the economic problems, which will be intensified in coming years.

Nicolás Maduro is inheriting a financial situation that was put under a great amount of pressure during Chavez’s 2012 reelection, the highest level of inflation in South America and the persistent scarcity of basic consumer goods.

The challenging economic situation will demand a restructuring of State spending and, potentially, reform of the strict control of the monetary system.

The oil industry in Venezuela still provides enviable revenue, but heavy loans to finance the construction of homes, pensions for the elderly, and scholarships for poor mothers have placed a considerable burden on the government in 2012.

A crucial indicator of the future of the oil-exporting nation will be whether or not Maduro keeps the minister of Finance, Jorge Giordani, architect of the constant expansion of state control over the private economy.

While the impatience of public opinion with daily problems such as violence, blackouts and poor infrastructure, did not affect the popularity of Chavez, Maduro may not be so resilient.

Widely well-regarded among Chavez’s party members, but lacking the charism of his predecessor, Maduro may also have trouble controlling “Chavismo”, a movement that encapsulates various people, from military officials and ideologues to oil executives and community leaders. For example, the new president may have difficulties with political relationships. In this sense, the president of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, who has considerable influence (more than Maduro) in important areas such as the Army, the Legislative branch, and state governments, will be an important piece in maintaining the Bolivarian project begun by Chavez.

In the short term, the trend is that Chavismo will remain united. It is worth noting that up to this moment, important figures in the government nucleus, such as the president of PDVSA, Rafael Ramírez, chancellor Elias Jaua and minister of Defense, Diego Molero, have not given any signs of a rupture.

Considered a moderate chavista, Nicolas Maduro was politically shrewd in including in anti-american rhetoric in his speeches, a characteristic of Hugo Chavez. Another important maneuver besides linking his image to that of the fallen president was the choice of the minister of Science and Technology, Jorge Arreaza, married to Rosa Virgínia, the eldest daughter of Chávez, as his vice president.

All indicates that, at this first moment, the economic challenges for Maduro will be greater than the political challenges. However, internal challenge may come up for the new president, especially if Cabello, one of the main components of Chavismo, does not maintain his loyalty.

Maduro victorious in 16 of 24 states
The government candidate, Nicolas Maduro, beat the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, in 16 of 24 states in Venezuela. Maduro was victorious in Amazonas (51.94%), Apure (61.21%), Aragua (54.05%), Barinas (52%), Carabobo (50.40%), Cojedes (61.15%), Delta Amaduro (59.68%), Caracas (51.32%), Falcón (53.03%), Guárico (59.10%), Monagas (55.37%), Portuguesa (65.19%), Sucre (57.46%), Trujillo (59.73%), Vargas (56.94%) and Yaracuy (56.48%).

Capriles won in eight states: Anzoátegui (52.47%), Bolívar (51.96%), Lara (52.42%), Mérida (57.02%), Miranda (52.36%), Nueva Esparta (52.94%), Táchira (62.95%) and Zuliá (52.19%).