Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venuezuela won 17 states and a large
majority of the national vote. The opposition won five states and the
mayoralty of capital Caracas.
Contrary to the dire predictions in
some sections of the British and US media, both the president and
opposition accepted the results with good grace. This confirms the
meticulous respect for democracy, confirmed in the latest survey by the
widely respected Latinbarometro, which found that satisfaction with
democracy in Venezuela is the second highest in Latin America.
the elections illustrated two new aspects of Venezuela's political
landscape. First, in the country as a whole, Chavez gained a large
margin of support over the opposition, of around 1m additional votes or
That is a dramatic shift in comparison to the
referendum on constitutional reform last year, which Chavez lost by
roughly 1%. This suggests that, while Venezuelans rejected some of the
proposed constitutional changes, Chavez retains broad overall majority
support. No doubt this is due to the way his government has given the
majority of the people access to free education for the first time,
eradicated illiteracy, massively expanded access to free education at
every level and raised the living standards of the impoverished
At the same time, the opposition won Caracas and the
interlocking state of Miranda, the main oil-producing state Zulia, and
Carabobo, an important industrial region. These are the three biggest
urban regions in the country.
The loss of Caracas, in particular,
is a symptom of the acute problems of massive shanty towns, crime,
traffic congestion, waste and inadequate public transport, which are
now primary concerns of people in the big cities.
There can be
little confidence that the opposition has any answers to these
problems, as their policies of plundering national resources for the
benefit of a tiny minority created this situation of urban decay in the
Under the old regime, continued in the key backers
of today's opposition, Venezuela started 1950 with an average income
that was nearly three times that of the main eight Latin American
countries. By the time Chavez came to power, this lead had almost been
eliminated by policies that gave Venezuela a rate of growth less than a
quarter of the average of those eight countries for 48 years.
he tackled those controlling the national oil company in 2003 and was
able to put its resources to productive use, Chavez achieved a
sustained rate of economic growth outstripping that of most of Latin
America and he put these resources to use tackling the most acute
issues of poverty, health and education.
These elections show
that Chavez now faces a more specific but equally imperative challenge,
that of radically improving the infrastructure, and with it, the
efficiency and quality of life in the country's main cities.
has been achieved so quickly, with such success, in the fields of
health and education gives some confidence that this can be achieved,
but only if the government takes on these issues with the same