The results of the November 23 local and state elections in Venezuela has inspired differing analysis (see www.venezuelanalysis.com). The following is a significant contribution to this discussion by a solidarity organization in Australia.
Venezuela’s regional elections: Another vote for the revolution and Chavez
A statement from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, November 25, 2008
The results of the elections for local mayors and state governors held in Venezuela on November 23 underlined the continuing mass support for the Bolivarian revolution led by President Hugo Chavez.
In a clear vote of confidence in the project to build socialism of the 21st century in Venezuela, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) - formed just six months ago with Chavez as its president - won 17 of the 22 states in which governors were elected. The United States-backed right-wing opposition won five states with a total of about 4 million votes, compared to the 5.5 million votes for the PSUV candidates.
The elections were also a victory for democracy in Venezuela. The voter turn-out was the highest ever in regional elections, with 65.45% of those eligible casting their vote (compared to 45% in the last regional elections in 2004). Despite some opposition leaders threatening not to recognize the results if voting hours were extended, polling centres were kept open until 10.30pm in some places to ensure that everyone waiting in the long queues was able to vote, and international observers report that it was a completely free and fair ballot.
Jim McIlroy, a participant in the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network brigade currently in Venezuela who observed the voting at polling booths in Caracas, said: “There was a festive atmosphere at the booths, but it was also highly politicised: the people were taking their democratic right to vote very seriously.
“The computerised voting sytem is far more advanced than that used in Australia, and its ability to guarantee the accuracy of the whole process clearly has the confidence of the people.”
After the close of polls, Chavez congratulated the Venezuelan people for participating in the elections in a “civic and joyful” manner, saying that the process ratified Venezuelan democracy, but not the “democracy of before”, which “belonged to the elites”.Overall, the November 23 vote for the PSUV – for the revolution and socialism - increased by about 1.3 million on the pro-revolution vote in the Constitutional reforms referendum last December. In contrast, the anti-revolution opposition’s comparative vote declined by about 300,000. As well, the Chavez suporters won back three states (Aragua, Guarico and Sucre) in which the incumbent governors had, over the last 18 months, defected to the opposition.
However, the sharp polarisation of Venezuelan society and the hard struggle still facing the poor majority to defend the gains of the revolution and realise their dream of a new socialist Venezuela is evident in the fact that the opposition, which won only two states in 2004 (oil-rich Zulia, and Nueva Esparta), this time won three more from Chavez supporters (Miranda, Tachira, Carabobo). The opposition also won the position of mayor of Greater Caracas and now controls four of Caracas’s five municipalities, although the largest and poorest municipality, Libertador, was re-won by the pro-revolution candidate.
Already in control of 95% of the media in Venezuela, the right wing will without a doubt use these victories to escalate their ongoing campaign to overthrow Chavez, and undermine the Bolivarian revolution. As was exposed just a month before the regional elections, they will stop at nothing to halt the revolutionary process, including another military coup and the assassination of Chavez.
Capitalist media around the world, including in Australia, are supporting their campaign to discredit and destabilise Venezuela’s revolutionary government. An AFP report by Sophie Nicholson, for example, which was uncritically regurgitated in the Melbourne Age newspaper on November 24, pedalled blatant lies about the regional elections.
“Mr Chavez”, it stated, “has threatened to imprison opponents, or even send tanks onto the streets, if his party loses in the populous northwestern state of Carabobo”. In fact, Chavez said that the government would mobilise the military if there were destablisation attempts around the elections: a scenario that was not out of the question given the opposition’s constant public calls in national media for the violent overthrow of Chavez and his government.
The Age article also claimed that “about 300 candidates, mainly from the opposition, have been prevented from running in the elections”. In fact, those barred from contesting were not mostly opposition candidates, and all were disqualified after investigations found them guilty of corruption.
Demolishing these and the numerous other efforts to paint him as some sort of “dictator”, Chavez immediately acknowledged the opposition’s victory in Carabobo, and the other four states. In doing so, however, he urged the opposition to behave democratically: “I hope you devote yourself to understand the people, govern with transparency, honesty and respect for the national government and the institutions of those states and municipalities. If you do so, you will deserve our acknowledgement; if you do not, the Constitution of the Republic will be imposed on you.”Of the 17 governorships won by the PSUV, eight were won with at least 60% of the vote and most of the others were won with a more than 10% margin on the closest rival. In the local municipalty elections, which were held at the same time, the average vote for Chavista candidates was even stronger.
Despite the many difficulties and contradictions confronting the revolution, it is clear that the great majority of Venezuelans want the process of transferring resources and power to the poor majority to continue.
Chavez summed it up when he said that these election results ratify that “the path is the construction of socialism, and we have to deepen it”. www.venezuelasolidarity.org