Venezuela News Summary #62 – Post-Election Special

Venezuela News Summary #62 Election Special for November 24, 2008

November 23, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)— President Hugo Chavez’s
governing party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) got
mixed results in the regional and local elections today, winning
stronghly in 17 out of 23 states, but losing the country’s two most
populous states and the Capital District of Caracas, with two more
states still to be decided.

At midnight Venezuelan time, about
eight hours after the first polls closed, the president of Venezuela’s
National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, announced the results
of the regional and local elections, with 95% of the vote counted.

to Lucena, participation had reached an unprecedented high for a
regional vote, at 65.45%. Over 17 million voters were registered, which
is several million more than in the last such election four years ago.
As a result, lines tended to be long and many polling places had to
remain open far longer than the official closing time of 4pm.

PSUV lost the governorships of the two most populous states, Miranda
and Zulia, and the mayor’s office of greater Caracas, which will be a
significant blow to Chávez and his movement.

The perhaps
greatest surprise is the upset victory, with 52.45% of the vote, of
opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, of the Brave People’s Alliance, in
greater Caracas. Ledezma once was governor of the city, from 1992 to
1995, when it was an appointed office. He was then elected as mayor of
the city’s main municipality of Libertador in 1995. Ledezma is
considered to be an integral part of the country’s old political guard,
given his ties to former President Carlos Andrés Perez.

challenger this time around was Aristóbulo Isturiz, also a former mayor
of Libertador, and former education minister for Chávez. Isturiz is one
of the few Afro-Venezuelan politicians of Venezuela with national

The other upset victory is in the state of
Miranda, one of the country’s most populous and wealthiest states,
where Henrique Capriles Radonski won with 52.56% of the vote, against
Diosdado Cabello, the incumbent governor and close confidant of
President Chávez. Capriles was able to win on the basis of his success
as mayor of the upper class Caracas municipality of Baruta, against
Cabello’s relatively poor performance in Miranda.

Finally, the
third key opposition victory was in Zulia, where Pablo Perez, the
right-hand man of current governor and opposition leader Manuel Rosales
beat GianCarlo DiMartino 53.6% to 45.0%. Zulia is another relatively
wealthy state with some of the country’s main oil deposits and the
largest population.

Another opposition win was in the state of
Nueva Esparta, which is mainly the tourist island of Margarita, and
which was generally an expected opposition victory.

where the opposition might still win include the industrial state of
Carabobo, where the former opposition governor Henrique Salas Feo is
running against PSUV candidate Mario Silva, who is the former host of
the satirical talk show “The Razor Blade.” The other state for which no
result has been announced is the border state of Táchira, on the
Colombian border.

The 17 states where Chávez’s candidates won,
they managed to do so often by beating both the opposition candidates
and dissident Chávez supporters. For example, PSUV candidate and former
communications minister William Lara beat, with 52.1% of the vote,
Lenny Manuitt, the daughter of the former pro-Chávez governor in
Guarico state.

The Process

Whilst it was aimed to have
voting centers closed by 4pm, the president of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena,
said that they would remain open as long as there were voters in
waiting in line to vote. Some opposition leaders, including Julio
Borges from Justice First party, Henry Ramos from Democratic Action and
Ismael Garcia from We Can, denounced the extension of voting hours and
threatened not to recognize the results.

By 9pm, according to
the chief of the Strategic Operational Command (CEO), General Jesus
Gonzalez, more than 50 people had been arrested and 106 detained for
various electoral crimes. Other than that voting was considered to have
proceeded very normally and calmly.

Gonzalez said the vast
majority of the crimes were destruction of electoral material, and for
distributing political pamphlets. A large proportion of the violations
were for tearing up the voting receipt.

In the state of
Anzoategui a group of people on motorbikes removed two rifles from
militia acting as part of Plan Republic, aimed at protecting the voting

Chávez Congratulates Nation

In a late-night
address to the nation, President Chávez congratulated the Venezuelan
people for having participated in the electoral event in a “civic and
joyful” manner.

The event “ratifies” Venezuelan democracy, but
not like the “democracy of before” his election to the presidency,
which “belonged to the elites,” said Chávez.

Chávez also
conceded defeat in the state of Miranda and of the capital district,
asking, “Who can say that there is a dictatorship in Venezuela? Well,
perhaps some will continue to say so.”

However, he highlighted
that of the 17 governorships his party had won, eight of these it won
with about 60% of the vote and the others with about 10% difference to
the closest rival. Also, his party garnered about six million votes,
which represents a significant development for his recently formed
party, the PSUV.

This result for the PSUV compares to the
approximately four million votes the opposition obtained, according to
PSUV vice-president Alberto Müller Rojas, and thus maintains the ratio
of previous elections (except last year’s constitutional reform
referendum, which was barely lost 51-49), of more or less 60-40 in
favor of Chavez’s Bolivarian movement.

For Chávez, “The construction of socialism in Venezuela is ratified and now we will now take charge of deepening it.”