Venezuelan Elections: Socialists Advance, Opposition Loses Ground Compared to 2000 Elections
By James Suggett
September 27, 2010 - Venezuelanalysis.com
In Venezuela's National Assembly elections on Sunday, opponents of President Hugo Chavez won approximately 20 fewer seats than they held during the 2000-2005 legislative term, while the pro-Chavez camp grew by several seats, Deputy-Elect Roy Chaderton said on Monday.
Chaderton said the opposition was setting up a "media farce" by comparing Sunday's results only to those of the 2005 election, which the opposition boycotted, and thus reporting that that opposition drastically increased its presence in the National Assembly.
During the 2000-2005 legislative term, which was marked by an array of party splits and shifting alliances, pro-Chavez parties held between 83 and 92 seats at any given time, while opposition parties held between 73 and 82 seats, out of a total of 165.
According to the official results of Sunday's election released by the National Electoral Council, Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 95 seats, while the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) won 62 seats. The center-left Fatherland for All (PPT) party, a former Chavez ally that split with the PSUV, won two seats. Three seats went to indigenous people's representatives unaligned with either the PSUV or the MUD. The CNE has not yet announced the results in the contests for three other seats.
Both PSUV and MUD officials reported non-official results on Monday. President Chavez said in a press conference that the PSUV, won 98 seats while the MUD won 65 seats. MUD leader Ramón Aveledo said MUD candidates received 52% of the total number of votes cast nation-wide. The CNE has not confirmed either of these claims.
Officially, the PSUV won the majority of the seats in 16 of Venezuela's 23 states. This included sweeping victories in the rural states of Apure, Barinas, Guarico, Cojedes, Lara, Portuguesa, Vargas, and Yaracuy; and strong victories in the major industrial states of Bolivar and Carabobo. The PSUV also won seven seats in the Capital District, compared to three for the MUD.
In Miranda state, where the capital city is located, the PSUV and the MUD each won three seats, with the MUD edging out the PSUV by a mere 741 votes out of a total of 968,947. The two were also tied with three seats each in Sucre state. In the sparsely populated and heavily forested Amazonas state, the PSUV won one seat, while the PPT won 2 seats and the MUD did not win any seats.
The MUD swept the border states of Tachira and Zulia, as well as Anzoátegui and the island state of Nueva Esparta.
According to an unofficial Venezuelanalysis calculation, approximately 10% of the 110 deputies who were elected as individuals were women.
Having won a majority of the National Assembly, the PSUV will be able to control the passage of ordinary laws and most other functions of the legislative body. However, the PSUV did not reach its goal of winning a two-thirds majority, which means the opposition will have the power to block organic laws, enabling laws that give decree power to the president, and some appointments to other branches of the government.
On Monday, MUD officials claimed victory in the elections, based mainly on their claim to have won the majority of the total votes cast on Sunday.
María Corina Machado, who was elected deputy of Miranda state, said the vote showed Venezuela's disapproval of President Hugo Chavez's presidency and its project of 21st Century Socialism, which the opposition says is emulating Cuba's political system.
"Here it is very clear, Venezuela said no to Cuban-style communism, Venezuela said yes to the path of democratic construction and now we have the legitimacy of vote of the citizenry, we are the representatives of the people," said Machado.
The PSUV also celebrated what it considered to be a victory. Vice President Elías Jaua, who is a PSUV official, said, "The revolution can count on a comfortable majority in the National Assembly... Few governments on our continent can count on such a comfortable majority of just one party."
"The opposition does not have any possibility, with this number of deputies, of reversing the legislative processes that have been completed or activating destabilizing mechanisms such as revoking public powers or impeaching the president," said Jaua.
PSUV Campaign Chief Aristóbulo Istúriz expressed disappointment that the goal of 110 seats was not reached. However, he said this should not distract from the "truly decisive victory" won by the PSUV, which "reaffirms us as the primary political force in our country."
"We achieved our objective in the sense of being able to guarantee the defense of President Hugo Chavez and the policies of the revolutionary government, and having won sufficient forces to propel structural changes in this era of the construction of socialism," said Istúriz.
Istúriz, who was elected deputy in the Capital District on Monday, called on the PSUV "to unite more than ever, to strengthen ourselves, because this is a long struggle, it is a daily struggle, it is a never ending battle and these legislators will be an important force in the construction of socialism."
President Chavez, through his Twitter account, called the election "a solid victory, sufficient to continue deepening democratic and Bolivarian socialism." He added, "We must continue strengthening the revolution!"
In a press conference on Monday night, Chavez said the next phase of his government will include "the acceleration of programs of the new historical, political, social, and technological project."
Chavez said the results reflected what was predicted by recent polls and analysis, and as such, "nothing extraordinary happened. Something extraordinary would have been if we won 130 deputies, extraordinary would have been if we lost the majority."
Polls over the past year consistently showed the PSUV's popularity as a political party hovering in the mid-30th percentile, with opposition parties much weaker, and a large undecided population.
Meanwhile, the approval rating for Chavez's presidency remained high at around 55% or 60%. This appears to have impacted the PSUV's electoral campaign, which de-emphasized individual candidacies and framed the election as a vote of approval or disapproval of Chavez's presidency. MUD candidates also focused on weaknesses of the Chavez government, such as rising crime and corruption, and made few if any policy proposals of their own.