Hugo Chavez was re-elected with a landslide in October winning a record number of votes having added 800,000 votes to his 2006 tally, a previous record.
Yet, some media – often the very same outlets that had predicted Chavez would lose or that it would be a very close race – have given the impression that though Hugo Chavez won, it is the Venezuelan right-wing coalition that is the political force making gains.
This impression is given by comparing the 2012 results with the previous Presidential election of 2006. Of course that’s a perfectly fine comparison to make. However, by focusing on this shift over a six year period this approach misses the important developments within this period.
It therefore omits one of most important developments in this year’s Presidential election: after a few years of stagnating electoral support the momentum is back with Chávez. The Chavistas are adding votes at a faster rate than the right-wing opposition.
The graph below shows the numbers of votes won at each election since 2006 by the coalition of parties backing Hugo Chavez and by the right-wing opposition coalition.
It shows that 2006 was a low point for the right-wing opposition coalition in Venezuela. Since then it has increased its support at every election.
The picture for the coalition of parties supporting Hugo Chavez is more mixed, including the loss of the referendum in 2007. Whilst Chavez’s coalition of supporters won the 2008 regional elections, subsequently the increase in its numbers of votes was initially matched by Venezuela’s right-wing coalition and then the number of Chavista votes fell absolutely.
As a result, between 2006 and 2010 (the last election before this year’s presidential vote) the numbers of votes won by the coalition supporting Hugo Chavez fell from 7.3m votes to 5.8m votes, albeit that is comparing different types of elections.
Over the same period the opposition coalition increased from 4.3m to 5.3m votes.
Clearly then between 2006 and 2010, it was the right-wing opposition coalition that had the momentum and it was gaining ground on the Chavez coalition
But in the 2012 election this has been well and truly reversed.
Since the last election in 2010, Hugo Chavez’s coalition of supporters have added 2.3m votes whilst the right-wing coalition added only 1.2m votes .
Or put another way, since 2010 the Chavistas have added votes at a rate of 2:1 over the right-wing coalition.
Importantly, this is the first time since 2008, that the Chavistas have added more votes than the opposition.
Moreover, in 2012 the Chavez coalition has not merely reversed the decline in the number of votes it won from 2006-2010 but has now even surpassed the 2006 levels.
That is testament to how in recent years the Hugo Chavez led government has responded to the economic crisis with a series of social programs that have stimulated the economy and addressed pressing social needs.
In contrast, in the immediate aftermath of the global economic crisis and deep recession in Venezuela, there was no stimulus and, as was the case with most governments in the world, the Chavez government’s popularity waned. The correct policies have overcome this.
So, despite the media narrative in some quarters, the 2012 elections showed one thing above all: the momentum is back with Chavez.
Lee Brown is a researcher on Latin America and a member of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign Executive Committee.
The results from 2008 aggregate are taken from here. The figures for the Chavez coalition in 2010 include the votes won by the PPT. This is for ease of comparison as although the PPT stood as an independent force in the 2010 elections it is a long standing ally of the Chavez government and in most other elections it has stood as part of the Chavez coalition. Including the PPT does nothing to alter the conclusion that the momentum is back with Chavez. In fact if the PPT were excluded from the 2010 total then the increase for the Chavez coalition between 2010 and 2012 would be even greater.