By Martine Dwyer
Last Sunday’s Venezuela elections resulted in a convincing win for the Maduro-led Chavista party the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) confounding the hopes of the right and their US backers and vastly strengthening the position of Maduro after his narrow win by 1.5 per cent in April.
‘Mission accomplished, Commander Chavez!’ was Maduro’s message to the crowd that assembled in Caracas’s Bolívar Square following the result.
It means that the Chavista forces have won 18 out of the 19 elections that have taken place in Venezuela in the last 14 years.
With 97.5 per cent of votes counted, the CNE, the Venezuelan national electoral authority, announced on Monday that the PSUV bloc gained just over 49 per cent of the popular vote, while Capriles’ right wing MUD coalition gained only 43 per cent.
The PSUV’s success is also a personal victory for Maduro, who had faced eight months of destabilisation and sabotage from the right. In the context of the sad death of Hugo Chavez, the right tried to exploit the situation to undermine his Bolivarian revolution. They focused on attempting to claim Maduro’s April victory in the Presidential election had been fraudulent and that his Presidency was not legitimate. They not only attempted to violently dispute the result but sought to undermine Maduro within the Chavista camp by mocking and belittling him personally and his leadership.
The election results this week destroy that campaign and confirm Maduro not just as Chavez’ chosen successor, but a legitimate and increasingly successful one.
The right’s destabilisation campaign included economic sabotage and exploiting the difference between the official and black market exchange rates of the Venezuelan currency to make absurd mark-up of a whole range of imported commodities. Goods were purchased at the official exchange rate of 6.3 to the dollar, then priced at the black market rate of up to 40 to the dollar. This led to mark-ups of up to 2000 per cent, and sometimes even higher.
In the run-up to the election Maduro used Presidential decree power to impose price limits on electrical goods. In what proved to be a very popular move, he sent in the army to temporarily seize control of warehouses and shops that were over-charging and impose fair prices.
Maduro has promised to step up action against economic sabotage with the mandate from these elections.
Of the results agreed by the CNE so far, the PSUV won 210 mayoralties and Capriles’ right-wing MUD coalition won 53. The right did win in a number of the larger and better off cities (as they have done before), including the municipality of Caracas (by less than 51 per cent). Although the PSUV continues to control Libertador, the largest and most populous metropolitan district of the capital. Around 76 mayoralties have to yet be adjudicated.
As Maduro said, following the election victory, ‘the people of Venezuela have told the world that the Bolivarian Revolution is as strong as ever’.
The victory gives the Chavista revolution a breathing space to take forward social and economic measures to further improve the lives of the Venezuelan people. The defeat will at least for a period disorient and demobilise the right. There will be issues in the leadership of the MUD, with Capriles discredited by yet another defeat when he had claimed the right was on the verge of victory and he also lost in his home base of Miranda.
With the right wrong-footed and with no further election campaigns due for a year or two, the government and PSUV can focus on other things. With Maduro at the helm, it is clear he will seek to take the revolution forward.
It remains to be seen how the defeated right and their US sponsors next seek to undermine the revolutionary process. Of one thing we can be sure – they will not give up. This defeat is a setback, but they will soon be planning their next campaign.