Venezuelans are heading to the polls today, and even though it’s not a presidential election, the stakes are particularly high: The country’s entire legislative body is up for election for a period of 5 years.
For the first time in nearly two decades, the ruling socialists who represent Chavismo—the movement launched by the late President Hugo Chávez—could be seriously challenged. Losing the congressional elections would mean losing power in one of the country’s key political institutions.
But Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution, which is now headed by President Nicolás Maduro, appears to be in it’s weakest moment since assuming power in 1998. Scarcity of basic foods and medicine, rampant crime, and accusations of drug trafficking at the highest echelons of government have further divided an already polarized nation.
Opposition protests last year sparked nationwide violence, leaving 43 people dead. And just last week, shots were fired as the wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López was giving a speech. She managed to escape, but another local opposition leader was killed.
Venezuela’s election could further weaken Chavismo’s grip on power, but doubts remain about whether the government would allow that to happen without a fight.