Legal challenges to the close 14 April presidential election and the government’s reluctance to commit to a full review cast a shadow over the sustainability of the new administration in an already deeply polarised Venezuela.

Venezuela: A House Divided , the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the presidential election triggered by the death of President Hugo Chávez. Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s chosen successor, won by a margin of less than 1.5 per cent over Henrique Capriles of the Democratic Unity alliance. The opposition has claimed irregularities and filed a court challenge after the electoral commission refused to conduct a full audit. The judiciary and other key institutions have been hollowed out in the fourteen years of Chávez’s rule, creating uncertainty about whether the transition to the post-Chávez era can be accomplished smoothly.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:

“There is a potentially dangerous gulf between the regime’s insistence that the election result be recognised as a condition for accepting the opposition, and the opposition’s understandable insistence that it can accept the election results only after a full and transparent review ”, says Javier Ciurlizza, Crisis Group’s Latin America and Caribbean Program Director. “If the worst is to be avoided, the moderates (or pragmatists) on both sides need to find a way to bridge that chasm”.

“Venezuela urgently needs to reconstruct its social and political fabric in the post-Chávez era”, says Mark Schneider, Vice President and Special Adviser on Latin America. “It needs to avoid political violence and accept democratic checks and balances in addressing the huge challenges of crime and economic deterioration”.