Monday, December 04, 2006

Thoughts on the Venezuelan election

Hugo Chávez won re-election handily, around 61-38, and Rosales conceded. His term is 6 years, and unless the constitution is reformed (definitely a possibility) he cannot run again. Here are some thoughts on the election:

--despite all the controversy over the reliability of polls, most said Chávez would win by a significant margin. Boz has some of the last poll numbers.

--despite the speculation (including on my part) that the losing side would claim fraud, Rosales conceded and the election seems to have been clean.

--I tend to agree with Ka, who thinks this may have marked the end of the old opposition, the last vestiges of the old political guard. It was in fact the decay of AD and COPEI that gave rise to Chávez in the first place, so it is appropriate that his rise may be the sign of their own last breath. A reborn opposition will need a coherent message that goes beyond criticizing Chávez and promising debit cards for the poor.

--with the exception of the NYT, reporting from the U.S. media about Venezuela is really poor. Today’s Miami Herald offers up a terribly written piece that even blames Chávez for high oil prices.

--the fact that not only did Chávez win big, but also legitimately (yes, there has been intimidation of state workers, no doubt, but I have yet to see any major complaints about the voting process itself) means that the U.S. government needs to accept his existence and keep its collective mouth shut. Criticism makes him stronger.

--this big win means Chávez will strengthen his control over state institutions, which will likely erode accountability even further. I wonder what Venezuelan politics will look like after these six years.


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