Of course, everyone is scrambling to make sense of the “post NO” era in Venezuelan politics. What’s absolutely fascinating—and what makes predictions so difficult—is that conventional wisdom was turned on its head. Low turnout was supposed to hurt the opposition, not the government. Polls were supposed to be wrong because they were politically motivated.
Chávez still has the enabling laws, and is committed to his vision of 21st Century Socialism regardless of the vote, which may lead to renewed conflict before long, but I am mostly inclined to put a positive spin on the results.
--Democracy worked. Chávez lost and accepted it. It’s obvious, but bears repeating. There have been countless facile comparisons to Fidel Castro, but Fidel has never participated in anything but fully cooked elections, and there is no way Fidel would ever accept electoral defeat.
--As a result, the opposition likely won’t keep up the abstention strategy for elections. Democracy is strengthened when everyone participates and accepts losing as a normal event.
--Chávez was defiant but relatively subdued, and neither side hurled outlandish insults at each other. It’s hard to imagine that state of affairs lasting very long, but at least for now…
--Aside from a very small amount of crowing, the
--Perhaps this is wishful thinking because the political contexts are different, but there is potentially a positive demonstration effect for