Venezuela's opposition vows to bring change to the oil-rich state after win

Venezuelan opposition supporters celebrate the results of the legislative election in Caracas, on December 7, 2015. Venezuela's jubilant opposition vowed Monday to drag the oil-rich country out of its economic crisis and free political prisoners after winning control of congress from socialist President Nicolas Maduro. PHOTO | LUIS ROBAYO |

What you need to know:

  • The ruling PSUV party led by Nicolas Maduro, lost control of the National Assembly for the first time since 1999.
  • The opposition MUD coalition led by Lilian Tintori won at least 99 of the 167 seats in the assembly, the state electoral authority said, with 46 for the PSUV.
  • The boiling tension of the past weeks of campaigning subsided into caution as Tintori and senior MUD leader Jesus Torrealba vowed their side did not want “revenge” or violence.

CARACAS, Tuesday

Venezuela’s jubilant opposition vowed to drag the oil-rich country out of its economic crisis and free political prisoners after it broke the socialist government’s 16-year grip on the legislature.

But analysts warned political struggles lie ahead for the centre-right MUD coalition and its moral figurehead Lilian Tintori, if they want a break from the socialist “revolution” launched by late president Hugo Chavez.

The MUD, a broad coalition of dozens of parties, must stay united if it wants to press its advantage against Nicolas Maduro, the country’s president and champion of “Chavismo.”

CONCEDE DEFEAT

Despite his fiery campaign rhetoric, Maduro promptly conceded defeat in Sunday’s legislative election and called for “coexistence” between the opposition and his PSUV party, which lost control of the National Assembly for the first time since 1999.

He also called a party congress to consider reforms.

“It will be a debate on how we will move forward with more revolution,” said the President, whose closest regional ally is Communist Cuba.

“The counter-revolution (opposition) has had this victory in the National Assembly,” Maduro said at the presidential palace after meeting with leaders of his party.

“The situation is complicated. We have got to close ranks in a civilian-military alliance,” he stressed.

NO REVENGE

The boiling tension of the past weeks of campaigning subsided into caution as Tintori and senior MUD leader Jesus Torrealba vowed their side did not want “revenge” or violence.

“We have an immense responsibility,” Torrealba said in an interview broadcast online.

His mostly centre-right coalition won at least 99 of the 167 seats in the assembly, the state electoral authority said, with 46 for the PSUV.

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“What happened yesterday was an electoral tsunami, but a vote of confidence is one thing and a blank cheque is something else,” Torrealba added.

“It is not the same thing uniting to resist and uniting to govern,” he said, calling on the diverse MUD to “reinvent” itself to “deal with the crisis.”

Tintori, the activist and wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, appeared smiling in world newspapers on Monday as she celebrated with supporters.

“I will not rest until all political prisoners are freed,” she said. “This is a historic day for Venezuela.”

International powers who have lobbied for change in Venezuela hailed the result.