Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sought to make Sunday’s parliamentary elections a referendum on his government.
By that standard the verdict was “thumbs down,” as 52 percent of voters reportedly chose opposition parties rather than the ruling PSUV. While PSUV candidates won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly– due to changes in electoral laws that favored rural areas– they fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to appoint judges and push through major changes. However it appears the opposition will be vastly underrepresented in the Assembly based on their share of the vote.
The opposition foolishly boycotted the previous National Assembly elections, allowing Chavez and his allies to capture all the seats– although some assembly members later turned against him.
Rory Carroll reported for The Guardian:
Chávez’s allies took at least 94 seats. The president said via Twitter today that his PSUV party was the victor. “Well, my dear compatriots,” he wrote, “it has been a great election day and we have obtained a solid victory: enough to continue deepening Bolivarian and democratic socialism. We need to continue strengthening the revolution!”
He did not address supporters from the balcony of Miraflores palace, a tradition from previous elections.
During the campaign, the former soldier said it was crucial to “demolish” the opposition and win at least 110 seats for the two-thirds majority required to continue to rubber-stamp his decisions.
Television pictures from the rival camps told their own story: PSUV supporters in red T-shirts looking uncertain, and opponents in yellow and blue T-shirts appearing upbeat.
Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, leader of the opposition coalition, said it had been a “marvellous” day but lambasted the national electoral council for an eight-hour delay before announcing the first, incomplete results at 2am local time to a tense country.
The council, which mostly comprises government loyalists, listed assembly winners but failed to immediately supply a breakdown of the nationwide popular vote. This is a crucial benchmark for Chávez, who declared the election a referendum on his rule.
Since sweeping to power in 1998, Chávez has cast his revolution as that of the poor majority against wealthy oligarchs. Two years ago, however, Caracas and other cities voted for opposition mayors and governors. Recession, inflation and crime played into the opposition’s hands again this time.