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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

VenEconomy: Whose Victory?

From the Editors of VenEconomy

Venezuela is now entering the final straight to the parliamentary elections.

This Sunday, September 26, Venezuelans will turn out to elect the 165 deputies who, for the next five years, will legislate on issues of fundamental importance for the country, monitor and control the performance of government officials, and preserve the democratic institutions essential for ensuring the independence of the branches of government.

On offer at these elections are two proposals, each defending a very different vision of the country: the one headed by President Hugo Chávez, which aims to finally impose a Cuban-style communism, and the other headed by a multi-party group and organizations of civil society and represented by the Coalition for Democratic Unity, which seeks to restore democracy and freedom in Venezuela.

As usual, both sides are proclaiming a sure victory. But, this time, it is worth asking, what exactly does victory mean? Which side will be able to say they are the winners and which will be the losers? The answer is a complex one.

Things are not easy for Chávez and his subordinates in the PSUV, despite having devised an electoral system designed to cater to their pretensions of remaining perpetually in power.

It so happens that the government is starting off in this contest with total control of parliament, broken only by some splits within Chavismo over the past four years. And while the ideal would be to preserve the control it has enjoyed since 2005, the true goal is to maintain a qualified majority in the National Assembly, which consists of two thirds of the 165 deputies. With those 110 deputies, Chávez could get the PSUV to appoint and remove, at will, the justices of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the Comptroller, the Prosecutor General, and the Ombudsman. Any result that is less than those two thirds would be a defeat for Chavismo.

Things are not a piece of cake for the democratic opposition either, more so when the 1999 Constitution gave greater electoral weight to small states, where Chavismo still enjoys the support of the majority, at the expense of densely populated states, where the opposition has been conquering spaces. On top of that there are the changes that have been made to the electoral circuits in the more populated states in favor of the government party, with the result that Delta Amacuro elects 4 deputies and Guárico 5, whereas Caracas gets to elect only 10.

Despite all this, the opposition could obtain the 47% of the votes required to achieve 56 seats, that is the one third plus one needed to snatch the two thirds from the government. This would be a huge step forward in favor of the country’s democratic institutions.

That being the way things are, a “victory” for the opposition would be one third plus one of the seats; plus a Democratic Coalition that understands that its success is the result of having learned to work together; plus candidates who have made contact with the man in the street; plus an electorate that recognizes that, given the obstacles, 56 seats is a triumph as it gives them a voice in parliament as well as a platform that will allow them to plan for a future in democracy.

This article is taken from the September 2010 edition of VenEconomy Monthly and will be available on the webpage www.veneconomia.com tomorrow, Friday, September 24

VenEconomy has been a leading provider of consultancy on financial, political and economic data in Venezuela since 1982.

Click here to read this in Spanish

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