SANTIAGO – The number of elected governments competing to be the world’s worst has now fallen by two. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe remains in office, as does Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. Poland is slipping into illiberalism, and regimes stretching from North Africa to the Hindu Kush are already there.
But 12 years of arrogant autarchy under Néstor and Cristina Kirchner have just ended in Argentina. And a stunning defeat in parliamentary elections surely marks the beginning of the end of 16 years of churlish chavismo in Venezuela. That is cause enough for cheer.
In Venezuela, all cards were stacked in favor of President Nicolás Maduro, Hugo Chávez’s hand-picked successor: arbitrary imprisonment of opposition leaders, intimidation of anti-government protesters by thuggish gangs, and what Human Rights Watch politely called “aggressive steps to reduce the availability of media outlets that engage in critical programming.”
Yet the opposition managed to win two-thirds of the seats in the single-chamber parliament. That gives Maduro’s opponents the qualified majority needed to amend the constitution, remove politicized judges and regulators, and, if it comes to it, hold a referendum to remove Maduro.