Venezuela's weary opposition is set to go to the polls on September 26, its 11th such outing since President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1998; this time voting for all 167 members of the unicameral National Assembly.
Five years ago, in the last National Assembly election, the opposition abstained en masse from the contest, claiming unfair government advantage and challenging the secrecy of the vote. Too late, they realized that their decision to hand over control of the legislature to President Chavez proved disastrous, allowing him five years of unencumbered lawmaking. Opposition leaders have resolved not to repeat that fiasco, and the winds may be shifting in their favor.
With their gaze firmly set upon the upcoming elections, early this year the opposition put aside internal divisions and banded together under the umbrella Table for Democratic Unity (MUD). They divvied up seats by party and region, allowing room for popular candidates and adopting an aggressive GOTV message. They made electoral material available and assembled a broad coalition. This is a stunning success, given the infighting and jockeying for power that have accompanied previous elections.