Over the weekend, two women were elected to replace their ousted husbands as mayors of two Venezuelan cities deeply entrenched in the country’s opposition protest movements.
The women — Patricia Gutierrez in San Cristobal and Rosa Brandonisio in San Diego — won in landslide victories of 73 percent and 87 percent respectively on Sunday.
Both Gutierrez and Brandonisio were elected under the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD - Mesa de la Unidad Democratica) party.
Their husbands were removed from office and arrested in conjunction with the ongoing demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
The protests began in Venezuela on Feb. 4 and so far 42 people have been killed.
"The result of these elections has shown that power and abuse have received a big lesson," MUD said in a statement.
Brandonisio will replace her husband, Enzo Scarano, who was sentenced to more than 10 months in prison in March. Scarano had refused to remove street barricades installed by protesters in the city, an act Maduro compared to a coup.
In the western city of San Cristobal, Gutierrez will take over the mayor’s office from her outspoken husband Daniel Ceballos who was arrested at the end of March and sentenced to a year in jail. The first protests took place in the city when students demonstrated after a classmate was allegedly raped.
At the time, Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres told state television Ceballos “did not meet his obligations as required by law and the constitution, but also facilitated and supported all the irrational violence in San Cristobal."
This weekend’s mayoral victories were not surprising considering the elections were held in largely pro-opposition cities.
George Ciccariello-Maher, a political science professor at Drexel University, told VICE News the results indicate Chavistas did not show up to vote.
“The opposition actually turned out to vote in higher numbers because they identified with this candidates and feel their husbands were subjects of persecution,” he said.
This success at the polls could energize the opposition amid stalled talks with the government.
But according to Ciccariello-Maher, the opposition will also have to reconcile with factions that do not recognize the legitimacy of national elections.
He says there are many protesters who do not believe in the country’s electoral process.
In this case, however, the same National Elections Council that validated the election of President Maduro has validated Gutierrez and Brandonisio’s victories.
“These elections on one hand galvanize and excite the opposition, but at the same time widen the divide between participation versus abstention,” he said.