In Venezuela’s December 6 election, the right-wing opposition coalition MUD won two-thirds of the National Assembly. It got 112 MPs while pro-government candidates (PSUV) won 55 seats. For supporters of Chavismo (a left ideology associated with former president Hugo Chavez) this represents 33 per cent of National Assembly seats but 42 per cent of the popular vote. The opposition secured 56.2 per cent.
Despite the massive national and world campaign to malign the country’s electoral system as prone to fraud, and the national electoral authority, the CNE, as the key mechanism of the fraud, the CNE — as it has done on 19 previous occasions — conducted itself impeccably.
With its typical efficiency it gave a full report on time, reporting the victory of the opposition.
Furthermore, President Nicolas Maduro recognised the results without raising any doubts of objections as to their genuineness. Most important of all, he correctly declared that democracy and peace were victorious.
This came after so many catastrophic predictions by the world media and so many US government officials, including presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, sowed doubts about the cleanliness of Bolivarian Venezuela’s election system but also, crucially, the democratic nature of Chavismo. Many a media commentator, writer and media hack knowingly told lies to demonise the Maduro’s government.
With its majority the right wing can now introduce gigantic constitutional changes that could substantially affect the composition of the CNE, Supreme Court, existing constitutional principles and laws and a great deal more. It could organise a recall referendum to oust President Maduro in 2016.
Already Fedecamaras, Venezuela’s CBI, has formally requested the MUD parliamentary majority leadership to repeal the highly progressive labour and fair pricing laws, both which benefit the poor. The latter protects the poorest against the ravages of the economic war the country has been subjected to for at least five years.
The size of the defeat is a reflection of the enormous discontent of ordinary Venezuelans with the deliberately created shortages of basic necessities, especially foodstuffs, the long queues they have had to endure for at least five years now, resulting from well-organised hoarding and massive contraband, massive currency speculation and exorbitant levels of inflation that bit into their standard of living.
They were also fed up with inefficiencies in the delivery of social programmes and the day-to-day running of the administration at all levels. An additional blow was the US development of fracking that led to a drastic plummeting of oil prices, thus denying the Maduro government the wherewithal to address the consequences of the economic war — of which fracking was one more component. On December 6 Venezuelans punished the Maduro government for all of these ills. Paid TV opposition propaganda stated: “The best electoral propaganda for the opposition are the existing queues.”
The opposition gained 343,000 votes last week. By contrast the government lost nearly two million votes. As Venezuelan pollster Oscar Schemel aptly put it: “It was a vote for punishment, not a vote in favour of the opposition.”
Paradoxically, these two million Venezuelans have given the MUD, the option they mostly refused to vote for, a huge constitutional power that the right will use to dismantle the social programmes they felt Maduro was unable to do something about.
For Maduro and his government, it was the most difficult of predicaments. Yet the government was able to maintain 43 per cent of the popular vote. The opposition’s inability to offer an attractive alternative to fed-up Chavistas offers possibilities of recovery but it will also be necessasry to mount broad defence campaigns against the unavoidable attacks to people’s rights that will come from the National Assembly majority.
Those who planned and carried out the economic war aimed at exactly that. As in Allende’s Chile, they sought to erode popular support for the government so as to oust it. The PSUV has entered an intense period of reflection, discussion and repair with an upcoming emergency national conference to devise a strategy to face this dramatic challenge.
Chavismo has the government, the majority of governorships (20 out of 23), plus 76 per cent of the country’s mayoralties. This is not the end of Bolivarianism in Venezuela, even though it faces an externally funded and externally led offensive which represents a mortal threat.
We cannot allow the ghost of Chile 1973 and Nicaragua 1990 to fall on Bolivarian Venezuela. We must redouble our solidarity efforts.
*Francisco Dominguez is the secretary of Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (VCS) UK
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