Monday, September 27, 2010

Venezuela: Government, opposition claim victory

Is the glass half-full or half-empty? It depends on which side you believe “won” Sunday’s legislative elections in Venezuela.

On the one hand, the Venezuelan government led by President Hugo Chavez claimed that they emerged as the victors in the National Assembly elections. “My dear countrymen…we have obtained a solid victory,” wrote Chavez on his website today after the Venezuelan Socialist Party (PSUV, in Spanish) maintained their legislative majority. Indeed, the PSUV won at least 96 of the 165 seats and, as one analyst told the AP, the opposition “lacks a strong presence” in rural areas where Chavez is very popular.

The opposition coalition, however, made significant gains after having boycotted the last legislative elections in 2005. The minimum 60 seats obtained by the Democratic Unity (MUD, in Spanish) coalition were enough to see the PSUV lose the two-thirds supermajority it had to easily pass major legalization. A MUD spokesman also claimed that they won the popular vote and that their alliance will become a major counterweight against the government.

Despite worries over inclement weather affecting voter turnout roughly 66% of voters took to the polls. Some controversy did emerge when the national electoral commission delayed releasing the results by about eight hours.

The next National Assembly does not take office until January and with a few seats still contested the PSUV may still continue to have enough of a majority to permit Chavez to legislate by decree. Yet the breakdown of the upcoming congress may force Chavistas and opposition to collaborate more with one another. Conversely, political divisions outside of the National Assembly could heat up in the run up to the 2012 presidential elections.

Image- AFP (“A Venezuelan National Guard soldier has her fingerprint checked before voting in parliamentary elections.”)
Online Sources-, MSNBC, The Guardian, Reuters, Sky News

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