A preliminary look at Venezuelas elections

While many of both the foreign and domestic opposition to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez were working overtime to give him and the Bolivarian Revolution that he leads a death blow, the president's political party, the United Socialist Party (PSUV), got the overwhelming majority of votes in the country’s regional elections. The PSUV won the governor's office in 17 out of 22 states. However, the opposition won four more governorships as well as the Federal District in the Nov. 23 elections for a total of six.

The PSUV and its allies also won at least 80 percent of mayoralties in the municipal elections.

According to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, the governmental agency that oversees elections, just over 11 million voted with 5.6 million for PSUV candidates and 5 million for the opposition. However, the number of pro government votes may be higher. While they supported the overwhelming majority of the of the PSUV candidates, not all were supported by other pro Chávez forces, including its two largest allies, the social-democratic Patria para Todos (Motherland for All) and the Communist parties. These and others ran their own candidates in coalition with other pro Bolivarian Revolution supporters. Adding all the votes in favor of candidates supporting Chávez brings the total to more than 6 million or 55 per cent of the vote.

Some in the opposition expected a higher win in these regional elections which came almost one year after the Chávez government and its allies lost a bid to reform the country's Constitution. In the last regional elections the opposition won seven governorships.

The winning of more states than they had before led the opposition to declare that they were victorious in the elections. Chávez took exception to this claim of victory. At a Monday press conference with the international press Chávez said, in a commentary directed to the opposition, “Come down off your clouds. This was a great revolutionary victory.”

A Venezuelan government press release, sent out by the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC, noted that the Chávez government “is stronger from this great popular support after 10 years in office and 11 elections.”

Oscar Figueras, secretary general of the Communist Party of Venezuela, held his regular Monday press conference and offered what he called a “preliminary analysis” of the elections. The full analysis of the election campaigns and results will be made the following weekend after the party's meeting of its leadership.

Figueras said the elections advanced and fortified democracy and the leading role of Chávez in the “Bolivarian process.” He also lauded the historic turnout saying the country had broken with “a tendency of abstention.”

The Communist leader called for a probing analysis of the election results, noting that the opposition had won in places where there was a concentration of industrial workers. He said his party would look at its own work and role among the working class.

Figueras also announced that the number of Communists in the state legislatures went from three to 12. Communists won the mayor's office in three municipalities where they were incumbents on the PSUV ticket.

While a number of pro Chávez parties ran against some PSUV candidates, none of them did it in alliance with the anti-Chávez opposition. The Communist Party said the ones they opposed were careerists and opportunists that had “infiltrated” the ranks of the PSUV for their own personal interests. They noted that one gubernatorial candidate had left a leading post and made anti-Chávez statements the during the second attempt to spark a coup by the right-wing inspired “strike” at PDVSA, the state-owned oil company, which in reality was a lock-out.

Another factor in the Venezuelan elections has been the Bush administration. During the first years of the Chávez government U.S. monies have been funneled to opposition figures and organizations under various guises. The National Endowment for Democracy has doled out over $1 million to opposition groupings including those who were involved in the 2002 two-day coup against the Chávez government.

The United States Agency for International Development has been a source of monies and training for the opposition giving $3.7 million in this year alone to groupings associated with the opposition.

One of the ways monies are channeled is through the International Republican Institute. The IRI, which claims no affiliation with the U.S. Republican Party, was “inspired” by Ronald Reagan and its board of directors is headed by Sen. John McCain.

The IRI has also interfered in other nation's political process like in Haiti, where it used taxpayer's dollars to right-wing groupings opposed to the Jean Bertrand Aristide government after it won the elections with 90 per cent of the votes.