By Pradyut Hande:
Amidst the prevailing air of political volatility, Nicolas Maduro was formally sworn in as the new President of Venezuela; beating the opposition candidate in Henrique Capriles Radonski by a mere 1.8% or 300,000 votes. He succeeds the late Hugo Chavez who succumbed to Cancer earlier this March.Â Given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the leadership of the troubled South American state over the last few months, this development certainly infuses an “official sense of clarity” on that front.
Maduro’s election to office has not been without its fair share of controversy, what with his principal challenger demanding a manual “vote by vote” recount given the agonisingly close margin of victory in question. However, the country’s National Election Council has turned down his demand, clearly stating the “impossibility” of the task. Having said that, the Council has ordered an electronic audit of the vote “in order to preserve a climate of harmony and isolate violent sectors that are seeking to injure democracy“. Maduro’s victory although vociferously hailed by his myriad supporters, has left a disgruntled opposition in its wake, in recalcitrant denial.
The fact that Maduro’s swearing in ceremony was attended by the leaders of some of the most significant Latin American nations in Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia; has lent greater credence to his election. Gaining the acceptance of his fellow neighbours to begin with, constitutes the first step in eventually steering Venezuela forward through the choppy waters of ambiguity. Thus, the support from the Organisation of South American Nations (UNASUR) will play a pivotal role in Maduro’s future course of action.
The USA which was strongly backing the opposition and banking on its triumph now needs to re-calibrate its outlook on the situation and accept Maduro as President, albeit reluctantly. Unsurprisingly, even the European Union (EU) expressed initial reservations regarding the validity of the poll results and suggested the need for an audit.
With the global community having slowly but surely taken cognisance of Venezuela’s new President, Nicolas Maduro now has his work cut out. His staunch left wing communist leanings promise to continue to promulgate Chavism and oppose neo-liberalism in its entirety. However, if he is to suitably address some of the state’s most pressing problems with alacrity, Maduro needs to step out of his illustrious predecessor and mentor’s shadow and develop an individualistic sense of leadership. His proximity to Hugo Chavez may have brought him this far, but it won’t take him much farther unless he rapidly displays political nous and strategic acumen whilst battling raging inflation, a sagging economy, an inadequate healthcare system, and alarmingly high levels of crime across the country.
Becoming a Head of State is one thing. But leading the same state with a sense of purpose and direction, through torrid times and smooth, is a whole different ball game altogether. Nicolas Maduro’s challenge has only just begun. Whether he drowns out the omnipresent voices of dissent to focus on the job at hand remains to be seen. For now, he can tower over the bastion of power on the throne of populist Chavism, but the grass root realities may just demand a gradual shift in ideology and approach.