I don’t think anybody was expecting a very different outcome (indeed, I’m not convinced that an alternative outcome is even allowed, if you know what I mean), but if there’s any good news to be found here, it’s that Maduro and his ruling socialist party didn’t acquire quite the overwhelming victory they were looking for in Sunday’s mayoral elections in order to squash the voice of the opposition and really break up the ongoing game of political tug-of-war.

Members of the ruling socialist party won in 196 of 335 municipalities up for grabs, according to preliminary results announced by the National Electoral Council. The opposition took 53 and independent candidate won eight races, while the remaining 78 contests were too close to call.

The opposition, which won 46 municipalities in the 2008 elections, retained control of the country’s two biggest cities, Caracas and Maracaibo, and took at least four state capitals currently in the hands of government supporters. Its biggest trophy was Barinas, the hometown of the late President Hugo Chavez and political base of his brother Barinas state Gov. Adan Chavez.

So, that’s something, I suppose, but it was also decidedly not the hearty rebuke to Maduro’s errant despotism that the opposition party was looking for, either. Those last-minute forays into short-term and superficially appealing economic lunacy, by jailing business owners for the heinous crime of charging “unfairly” high prices and other such measures designed to combat the made-up economic “war” being waged against his regime, were evidently pretty helpful for Maduro’s pre-election popularity.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pledged to deepen his “economic offensive” to force businesses to cut prices after his ruling Socialist Party won the most votes in weekend municipal elections. …

The president’s candidates benefited from a populist crackdown in November to force merchants to slash prices of goods such as TVs, car parts and home hardware.

“This week we are going to deepen the economic offensive to help the working class and protect the middle class,” a triumphant Maduro told supporters in a rally after the results were announced late on Sunday night.

“This week it’s going to be the housing and food sectors. We’re going in with guns blazing, keep an eye out.”

Maduro’s personal approval rating jumped sharply after he instituted the economic measures, which won over consumers weary of the country’s 54 percent annual inflation. Maduro blames the rising prices on an “economic war” he says is financed by political adversaries. …

In a nutshell, the elections marked what was more or less the preservation of the status quo, and unfortunately, that status quo is now one in which Maduro can unilaterally impose whatever idiotic economic degrees he can dream up while Venezuela’s economy continues to crumble.