What's Next for Venezuela?

"He's a very pugnacious fellow, he's too much of a [political] fanatic," Malaver said. "When he feels politically strong again, he will once again make a push" for socialist reforms, Malaver claimed.

Malaver drew parallels between the Chávez government, and Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which stayed in power for 70 consecutive years by winning numerous elections in which the playing field was heavily tilted in its own favor.

He argues that the Venezuelan opposition is in a Catch-22 scenario. It cannot reject election results because that would make it look like an undemocratic group. But by recognizing the election results, it has helped to provide legitimacy to a government with authoritarian tendencies. "This is the worst of both worlds," Malaver said.

The Pollster Luis Vicente León runs Datanalisis, one of the most well-known polling firms in Venezuela. A survey conducted by his firm in late September correctly predicted that Chávez would win by a 10 percent margin.

"There is an opportunity here for Chávez 's [socialist] revolution to entrench itself," León said. "But on the other hand the opposition also grew greatly in this election."

León said that during this upcoming term, Chávez may try to implement constitutional changes that would safeguard his socialist revolution. A law that calls for elections to take place if the president must retire from office could be modified for example, so that the Vice-President gets to serve out the entirety of Chávez 's term, if Chávez dies in office or must retire due to his health condition.

"Chávez will attempt to increase [government] control over private industry, over the military and over [public] institutions," like state governments, León claimed.

Would the 45 percent of the vote obtained by Capriles deter Chávez from pursuing radical reforms? And instead encourage him to take on a more conciliatory approach to politics?

Luis Vicente León doesn't think so.

"Why would Chávez auto-regulate himself?" León said, explaining that the Venezuelan president still controls the country's congress, as well as the judiciary branch. According to León, the big challenge for Venezuela's opposition in the following months, will be to stay united, and to be organized enough to resist Chávez 's efforts to deepen his revolution.

Elections in December, in which Venezuelans will pick state governors, will be a key testing ground for the opposition.

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