Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Venezuela’s Elections

by MARK WEISBROT

This week’s election for 165 representatives in the National Assembly is significant but unlikely to bring about major change in Venezuela, despite the opposition having done better than expected. As this article goes to press, the pro-government United Socialist Party won 95 seats, with 62 for the opposition Democratic Unity, five for other parties, and the rest still undecided.

As expected, most of the international press and its sources hailed the results as a “major blow” to Chávez, paving the way for his possible removal in the presidential election in 2012. But this is exaggerated.

The vote was widely seen as a referendum on Chávez, and it would indeed be quite an anomaly in the history of electoral politics if the government did not lose some support after a recession last year that continued into at least the first quarter of this year. Chávez’s popularity has always gone up and down with the economy, reaching a low during the last recession of 2002-2003, despite the fact that it was caused by an opposition oil strike. His approval rating has fallen from 60 percent in early 2009 to 46 percent last month.

For comparison, President Obama’s approval rating has fallen from 68 percent in April of last year to 45 percent this month, and his party is expected to take big losses in the November Congressional elections here, with some pollsters forecasting a loss of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. And this is despite the fact that he clearly inherited the country’s economic problems from his predecessor.

It is not clear why anyone would expect Venezuela to be exempt from the normal workings of electoral politics. The opposition has most of the income and wealth of the country, and most of the media as well. They have no problem getting their message out, even if the government – mostly through Chávez – also has a big megaphone. Obama also faces a strong right-wing media, with Fox News now one of the most popular sources for coverage of the fall elections, but there is much less of an opposition media in the United States than in Venezuela.

Much has been made of the opposition’s winning more than a third of the National Assembly, thus being able to block some important legislation that would “deepen the revolution.” This importance of this result it also greatly exaggerated.

In reality, the government’s having a less than two-thirds majority is unlikely to make much difference. The pace at which it adopts socialist reforms has been limited much more by administrative capacity than by politics. The Financial Times recently added up the value of industries nationalized by the Chávez government. Outside of oil, it came to less than 8 percent of GDP over the last five years. Venezuela still has a long way to go before the state has as much a role in the economy as it does in, for example, France.

On the positive side, the most interesting result of this election is that the opposition participated, has accepted the results, and now has a bloc of representatives that can participate in a parliamentary democracy. If it chooses to do so, this could be an advance for Venezuelan democracy, which has been undermined by an anti-democratic opposition for more than a decade. As opposition leader Teodoro Petkoff has noted, the opposition pursued a strategy of “military takeover” for the first four years, which included a military coup and a devastating oil strike that crippled the economy. In 2004, the opposition went the electoral route and tried to remove Chávez through a referendum; they failed and then promptly refused to recognize the result, despite its certification by international observers such as the Carter Center and the OAS.

They then boycotted the last National Assembly election in 2005, hoping to portray the government as a “dictatorship,” and leaving them without representation for the last five years. This newly elected parliamentary bloc could potentially draw the opposition into real political participation. If that happens, it would be a significant advance for a country that has been too politically polarized for too long.

MARK WEISBROT is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

This article was originally published by The Guardian.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail