17 February 2009

Venezuela Vote Reveals Chavez Gains

Hugo Chavez has won the referendum with more than a million votes. Of Venezuela’s population of roughly 26 million, there are 16 million plus voters, suggesting a young country and the demographics will work in Chavez’s favour.

About 70% of voters, 11 million plus, voted in the referendum of 2009. Fourteen months ago, it was defeated by 150,000-odd votes, by about 1%. This time, it won by more than a million votes, leading the Opposition by close to 10%.

The Chavez votes increased by about a million over the mayoral and gubernatorial elections of 2008, where the Chavistas gained in 80% of the municipalities and 77% of governorships but lost in the large cities and also some states to the Opposition.

This time, the Chavez camp gained in19 of the 24 states. The Opposition vote went down in 6 states compared to the 2007 referendum while the Chavistas lost one on that score. The Chavistas gained in every region of the country, urban and rural, but their strongest showing was in the heartlands and the rural areas. This might have something to do with the President’s efforts to revive agriculture and rural life, reversing a long decline.

The Chavez vote triumphed in three states ruled by the Opposition and has surged in Caracas since 2007 and even 2008. It seems almost a certainty that Chavez will win the next presidential elections and that the PSUV party will regain some of the states from the Opposition while losing no more than one to them, if at all.

A majority of those who abstained are likely to be critical Chavez supporters who, while not agreeing with more presidential terms, would not vote against him. There are no more major elections slated for a few years now though recall referendums will happen in some Opposition-ruled states where the Chavistas have done well this time and perhaps in a couple of Chavista states with a strong Opposition showing. This might apply to mayors too. And there is always the possibility that more Constitution changes might be introduced and put to vote as President Hugo Chavez refashions the geometry of power.

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