“Capriles’ win, together with the losses incurred by other political forces, means he is the clear front-runner to become the opposition candidate in case an election to replace Hugo Chávez has to be called. According to Venezuela’s constitution, a new election has to be called within the following thirty days in the event of a president’s death. Since Capriles has already campaigned across the country, he has the necessary name recognition to compete. His victory in Miranda also gives him the necessary political capital. The other two elected governors are Capriles allies with little name recognition outside their home states, and there have been no suggestions that they are looking to challenge him.
Moreover, even though the chavista forces proved they could win elections without Chávez (the president did not campaign for his other candidates), the low turnout is a warning sign. The roughly five million votes the PSUV candidates received are much lower than the 8.2 million Chávez got in October. They are also much lower than the 6.6 million votes Capriles picked up in October.
The stage seems set for the next phase, whatever it may be and whenever it may come. From what is known about the president’s health, it is highly likely that Venezuelans will have to go to the polls to elect a new president in the next twelve months. With Sunday’s results, Vice President Nicolás Maduro (the man Chávez has named as his successor) is the favorite to win.
But these latest elections have also clarified the picture for the opposition. It also has a candidate, one that is well known, tested, and battle-ready.”