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Test Of Fire

 

In spite of seemingly insurmountable odds, Nicolas Maduro led PSUV posts a confidence boosting victory in Venezuela, reports Tamara Pearson
TAMARA PEARSON | New Delhi, December 13, 2013 12:48
Tags : Henrique Capriles |Nicolas Maduro | Hugo Chavez |
 
The positive election result came as a relief. It is a hopeful result that gives a well deserved finger to the bitter, whinging opposition, and their private media buddies. However, the political significance of the result is also more complicated than that, and it is now time to focus our energy on really consolidating this revolution.
 
The exact overall difference between those who support the revolution, and those who are against it, depends on how you read the numbers. There are three different ways to do that: according to each organisation’s vote on its own, according to the candidates’ votes (as most Chavista candidates were supported by multiple organisations), and according to candidates’ politics, where independents may support one side or another, or where there were split votes (with the PCV running against the PSUV for example, but both are counted as being pro-revolution).
 
Going through the results respectively (mostly based on the first bulletin, with 97% of votes counted): In the first instance, the PSUV as an organisation got 4,584,477 votes, or 44.16%, the MUD got 40.96%, the PCV got 1.6%, and other organisations got 13.36% of the vote. In the second instance, PSUV candidates, supported by a range of organisations, received 5,111,336 votes, or 49.24%, and the opposition candidates, supported by the MUD and by other opposition parties, got 4,435,097 votes, or 42.72%, and others received 8.03%. 
 
On a municipality basis, the PSUV won outright, as it has much more support in the more rural and poorer areas, while the opposition’s support is almost entirely concentrated in the wealthier areas of the big cities. So far out of a total of 337, the PSUV has won 210 municipalities, the MUD 53, other parties 8, and the rest are still undecided. 
 
After the results were announced, Henrique Capriles, who had basically abandoned his job as Miranda governor and had been campaigning for the opposition, tweeted the following; “2014 is looking like a very difficult year for Venezuela, and we’ll be there with you all to look for ways out of the economic chaos”. He also tweeted repeatedly, “No one is the owner [head] of Venezuela, the country needs unity, dialogue...we have a divided Venezuela”.
 
Private English and Spanish media parroted his analysis, with AP headlining “Split results in Venezuela mayoral elections” and referring to the election results as a “political stalemate”. Likewise, the Wall Street Journal headlined, “Venezuelan Vote Reflects Deep Divide” and BBC World in Spanish, “Venezuela is still divided”.
 
Nevertheless, most mainstream international and Venezuelan media was forced to recognise that the PSUV won yesterday’s elections, and fairly. The Guardian and Reuters headlined “Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro cements power with victory in elections” and noted, “President Nicolás Maduro's party won the most votes in Venezuela's local elections on Sunday, disappointing the opposition and helping his quest to preserve the late Hugo Chavez's socialist legacy.”
 
So that leaves us wondering what the opposition will do now. They tried a coup in 2002, and since around 2005 they have tried a more indirect, psychological war approach, whilst pretending to accept some of the revolution’s main facets and demonising it at the same time, and lost again and again, with the exception of the 2007 constitutional referendum. I repeat- they have lost 18 out of 19 elections in the last 14 years. The death of Chavez, and their economic attacks this year have been the best chance they’ve had, yet even under those conditions around 5 million Chavistas have stayed strong. With their “electoral fraud” angle looking pathetic, what will they do now? Will they wait and maintain their attacks, until attempting a recall in 2016, which they may not win?
 
Furthermore internationally, these elections largely nullify their claims of fraud and an unreliable electoral system. Praise for Venezuela’s system is high and ongoing, and the participation rate this time was 59%, despite the elections being local only, being held close to Christmas and school holidays, and despite being the fourth in 14 months, speaks to the people’s faith in the system. According to Bipartisan Research Centre, a smaller percentage of eligible voters turned out to the US’s 2012 presidential elections.
 
More importantly, this is an electoral victory after exactly 1 year without Chavez at the helm, and after almost a year of higher inflation, some scarcity, ongoing media attacks and a psychological war, as well as an almost nationwide blackout last week. The 5 million who voted for PSUV candidates are politically consistent, strong, and prove that this is a socialist project, not something that can be reduced to the charisma of Chavez, as the media tried to do.
 
Yet the numbers from yesterday are limited in their ability to measure the strength of the actual revolution. Let’s not forget how many of the PSUV candidates chosen- without any consultation, by the state governors, were usually. Many activists resented that, but voted for PSUV candidates in order to safeguard the revolution in general. Also, in the long term we’d like to see the mayors have less and less power and resources, and the communes and councils more.
 
The elections are one type of battle, but it could be argued the national economic and class one is even bigger. Maduro’s response to the economic attacks and the generally greedy profiteering of the business class has been firm. Their attacks and his response has seen an increased class consciousness, as the economy becomes an even more tangible part of our everyday lives, rather than just something for the experts to chat about.
 
People are quite politically clear, and are angry, but there’s been a disappointing lack of increased class organisation, or organisation to defend our economic rights. There has been some, but the situation warrants more. I think many people fortunately and unfortunately believe the government will solve it all
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017