Chavez Wins Again
CARACAS, Venezuela — The results of the Nov. 23 state-municipal elections dashed the opposition’s hopes that Venezuela has become fed up with President Hugo Chávez. Chávez’s United Socialist Party (PSUV) took 17 of the nation’s 22 governorships, 80 percent of the mayoral posts and all but three state legislatures. The achievement of an absolute majority of the popular vote by the Chavistas — or Chávez supporters — after 10 years in power is impressive. It shows that the president has found the formula for maintaining high levels of popularity over an extended period of time.
In another plus for the Chavistas, voter turnout surpassed 65 percent — 20 percentage points higher than the last state-municipal election in 2004. Such participation helps debunk the claim that Chávez is installing an authoritarian regime.
However, it wasn’t all good news for the Chavistas. Opposition leaders and some of the media highlighted Chávez defeats in Miranda, Zulia, Carabobo, the nation’s most populated states, as well as in the capital city of Caracas. The losses might force Chávez to slow down the pace of change and force the PSUV to analyze its errors.
Chávez was first elected president in 1998. The Chavistas won all 10 local, state and national elections held between then and December 2007 — when his proposed 69-article constitutional reform was defeated in a national referendum. Chávez’s far-reaching changes during this decade include nationalization of strategic sectors of the economy, increased spending for the poor, closer relations with Russia and China at the expense of U.S. ties, and a hard line within OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
The broader focus
From the election’s outset, national — and even international — issues overshadowed local ones. In September, Chávez expelled the U.S. ambassador in solidarity with Bolivian President Evo Morales, who had done the same the previous day, as a way to protest intervention in internal affairs. Chávez also announced that security forces had just uncovered an assassination plot against him.
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