Nicolas Maduro has scraped a narrow victory in a race that was much closer than anticipated. He’ll be serving the remainder of Hugo Chavez’s six-year term.
However, opposition leader Henrique Capriles is refusing to recognize the results and is calling for a recount. Maduro does not exactly seem open to that idea.
Maduro faces a number of challenges in the years ahead. In brief: crime has skyrocketed in recent years, as has inflation, while political rifts have opened between the coalition of parties in power and the opposition.
Chavez’s leadership brought together a diverse range of activists and politicians, but during his time in office, he did not build strong democratic institutions to help maintain stability. The political system in Venezuela was in large part dependent upon Chavez’s charisma as a leader. As a result, infighting and instability could play a much bigger role in governance in the future, and we could see the ruling coalition begin to crack.
And whether or not the opposition can remain united long enough to take advantage of that is an even bigger question.
And of course, it also remains unclear what Maduro’s election means to U.S.-Venezuela relations. While Maduro made Chavez-esque criticism of the U.S. a centerpiece of his campaign, he reportedly reached out to former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who was in Venezuela as an OAS representative observing the election, and indicated that he would like to improve the contentious relationship.