Venezuela’s political future returns to instability as President Hugo Chavez recovers from a difficult and complex cancer operation in Cuba. His fragile health, combined with the naming of Foreign Minister and Vice President Nicolas Maduro as his successor has added fuel to speculations regarding the future of his Bolivarian Revolution.
The situation is complicated by Venezuela’s constitution, in which Article 233 provides three scenarios for the replacement of the president.
However, the real issue comes about in the political arena. The chances that President Chavez will not be in the picture provides a window of opportunity to the Venezuelan opposition. Polls completed during this past presidential election showed that Capriles Radonski, the opposition’s former presidential candidate, would have a higher chance of winning over any of President Chavez’s lieutenants, including Vice President Maduro. If Radonski is able to win re-election as the governor of the state Miranda, it would signal that his political career is not over after October’s defeat. This could also prompt him once more into entering the race for the presidency.
However, if Radonski loses the election, it will also bring about division within the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD). Other prominent candidates, such as Pablo Perez, the governor of the oil rich state of Zulia, and Leopoldo Lopez, former Mayor of the municipality of Chacao in Caracas, could lead to another political battle for the MUD candidacy, robbing the opposition of the chance to finally win Miraflores, as its major obstacle in the past – disunity – reappears.
However, division within MUD does not necessarily mean a clear win for the government. Indeed, Maduro’s own capacity to unite the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) behind his possible presidential run is doubtful. Although the radical wing of the party, symbolized by the President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello, has stated their support for Maduro, it is a wildcard in a possible election. It is uncertain whether Maduro will be able to hold the civic-military poles within Chavismo. A split between the civilian and military wings of PSUV could mean chaos for the Bolivarian Revolution.
Venezuela’s political situation is in a dramatic stage that can drive the nation in any direction. If presidential elections are called once again, it will be unknown who will win. A more clear picture will appear after Sunday’s regional elections. Yet, the real test will come on the 10th of January, when President Chavez is scheduled to take the oath of office for another term. If he is unable to do so, it will push Venezuela into another presidential election.