Venezuela Election, Victory or Setback for Chavez?

6 Oct 2010

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In recent days, the Venezuelan people elected a new national assembly.

The Socialist Party led by Hugo Chavez and the opposition party, under the banner of Democratic Unity, more or less split the vote with a slight one percent advantage to the Socialist Party.

Paul Jay of the Real News Network speaks with Gregory Wilpert, editor of, to make sense of this latest development in Venezuelan politics.

Is this a win or a lose for Chavez?

According to Wilpert, regardless of the fact that the opposition took some votes in Venezuela's poor urban neighbourhoods, this is still a win for Chavez considering that he has been in office for 12 years and that Venezuela has just been through two bad years with an economic and electricity crisis, a management crisis of government as well as a new crime wave.

The combination of all these factors makes it quite amazing that Chavez is able to survive and get half of the vote.

But it is also disappointing for Chavez's supporters, as they hoped to get two thirds of the national assembly and to get significantly more than 50% of the popular vote. So, in that sense it is a defeat, says Wilpert.

Why does the national assembly play such a huge role in Venezuelan politics?

Venezuela's national assembly is hugely important because the President doesn't have the right of veto. Moreover, the national assembly appoints all branches of government, except for the executive. They appoint the justices of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Controller General and also the National Electoral Council that organizes the country's elections.

Despite a split vote, seats are not divided equally between the opposing parties in the national assembly with 97 seats going to the Socialist Party and 65 seats to the opposition.

But the Socialist Party is still short of a two-thirds majority in cases where they need such a majority to make certain appointments.

However, this is not a new problem that the Chavez government faces, as the current national assembly more or less resembles itself during Chavez's first five years in government.

Going forward, the implication for the Chavez government is likely that an impasse will be reached in cases where a two-thirds majority is needed, As Venezuelan politics are extremely polarized.

One of the reasons the Socialist Party did poorly in the urban areas is because of the crime wave linked to extremely high levels of corruption amongst the police -- a problem that the Chavez administration has not seriously prioritized.

Still, it is interesting to note that in terms of its overall development targeting the poor, Venezuela has done extremely well. Venezuela is one of few countries in the world that is on track to reach all the Millennium Development Goals.

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