Chavez will fight election results

October 1, 2010


Venezuela’s opposition leaders are ecstatic about the results of Sunday’s legislative elections, which dealt a heavy blow to President Hugo Chavez. But they should get ready for Chavez’s counterattack. It will come soon, and it will be nasty.

Judging from what I hear from former close Chavez aides and other well-placed analysts, he is likely to circumvent the results of Sunday’s vote by pulling several tricks to consolidate his powers ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

On paper, Chavez won Sunday’s election by obtaining 98 seats in the National Assembly, while the opposition won 65.

But according to opposition counts, anti-Chavez and independent candidates received 52 percent of the popular vote despite Chavez’s massive use of government resources, virtual control of most electronic media and widespread intimidation.

“This will have a gigantic impact,” anti-Chavez leader and congresswoman-elect Maria Corina Machado told me in a telephone interview. “What was at stake last Sunday was whether a terrified society that feared all kinds of punishments if it didn’t vote for Chavez would overcome its fear. And people did overcome their fears!”

Opposition leaders stress that Chavez’s 33-seat majority in the National Assembly will be exclusively due to rules that were heavily tilted to favor government candidates. Pro-Chavez states like Amazonas could elect one legislator with just 20,000 voters, while anti-Chavez states such as Zulia required 400,000 votes to elect one legislator.

Still, the opposition carried several former Chavez strongholds, including the Caracas district of Libertador, where the presidential palace is located. Nationally, Chavez got 5.4 million votes, way below the 7.3 million votes he received in the 2006 presidential elections and 17 percent fewer votes than he got in a 2009 referendum.

Still, there are several scenarios under which Chavez could bend Venezuelan laws — as he has often done — to maintain his near absolute powers:

l Scenario 1: Chavez uses the outgoing National Assembly, which he fully controls until the newly elected legislators take their seats on Jan. 5, to pass an “enabling law” that grants him extraordinary temporary powers. He and previous Venezuelan presidents have done this.

l Scenario 2: The new National Assembly takes office Jan. 5. and Chavez no longer enjoys a two-thirds majority to rule at his will. But Chavez, through vote buying or intimidation, gets the votes he needs to get the new congress to pass an “enabling law.”

l Scenario 3: Chavez asks the Supreme Court, which he controls, to issue a ruling scrapping the two-thirds vote requirement and to allow him to pass key laws by a simple majority vote.

l Scenario 4: Chavez gives legislative powers to pro-government community councils, in effect stripping away the powers from the National Assembly.

He has done something similar before: When opposition Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma won in the 2008 elections, Chavez created an office of super-mayor of Caracas, appointed a loyalist to head it and shifted most of the opposition-held mayoral office’s duties and budget to the new office.

Will Chavez bend the laws to strip the elected National Assembly of its powers, the way he did with the Caracas mayoral office, I asked Ledezma this week. The opposition mayor said it’s going to be much more difficult for Chavez to do it because Venezuelans and the rest of the world would see it as a “self-coup.”

“It’s a different circumstance: Since Sunday, there is a new political map in Venezuela,” Ledezma said. “Now, the opposition won a majority of the national vote.”

My opinion: Venezuela’s opposition has not been as strong — and Chavez as weak — since the beginning of his presidency. But Chavez is likely to once again bend the Venezuelan Constitution, which he himself drafted, to maintain his populist authoritarian rule.

He is a military man at heart. He has publicly said from day one that he doesn’t believe in representative democracy, but in his own brand of “participatory” democracy.

There is little question that Chavez will use the Supreme Court and other government branches that he controls to try to void the new National Assembly’s opposition bloc of its powers. The only question is whether the international community will look the other way and allow him to get away with it.

— Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com


CorkyHundley 7 years, 6 months ago

Leftists are taking notes. Hollywood leftists like Penn and Glover love Chavez. What can Obama and his minions do to get himself into a President for life occupation. Watch Chavez in action. Obama has said recently that "It took time to free the slaves".

ivalueamerica 7 years, 6 months ago

do you have anything to say that is not a lie?

ivalueamerica 7 years, 6 months ago

I call people liars who make up things that are not true.

I have called many people who agree with me liars if they lie.

Obviously it is a concept you are unable to grasp.

I hate Chavez. most left people I know do, even those that embrace Socialism (which I do not).

I will never hesitate to call anyone that says something as a fact that is not true a liar.

If that offends you, all the better.

fester0420 7 years, 6 months ago

if you really think that you are a true moron

fester0420 7 years, 6 months ago

most of the media with the exception of fox news just reports the news not take sides. its news agency's like fox news that muddle the real news. its very sad

fester0420 7 years, 6 months ago

all great reporters. at least they tell the truth. how about bill orially who gets caught telling lies on a regular basis

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

"Tom, I believe the article states that Hugo has all the media now."

He's certainly tried to corral the media, but he hasn't fully succeeded. There is still plenty of the old-line, oligarchic media (which is about all there was before Chavez) alive and well, doing their best to bring Chavez down.

No doubt about it, Chavez is a narcissistic bore. The only reason he's still in power is because he's actually tried to do right by the majority of Venezuelans who live in poverty. Unfortunately, he hasn't been terribly successful in that, largely because that's taken second position to the construction of a cult of personality around himself. This has made him vulnerable to an opposition that has no other visions for Venezuela beyond removing Chavez (and presumably the reinstitution of government of, by and for the oligarchs who have historically run Venezuela.)

Flap Doodle 7 years, 6 months ago

All the people of Venezuela will be better off when Comrade Hugo's noggin is decorating a pike.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm sure that if he could be replaced by the rightwing dictator of your choice, that would be his fate.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

"Hmm, who was president and who controlled the congress in the 40s? Who could it be? Who could it be? Maybe............Democrats!!"

But in Tinky's world, if it had been done by Republicans, it would have been tinky winky good.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm actually a registered Republican (but truly a RINO)

While I'm not a registered Democrat, I do recognize that on average, they are slightly less corrupt and do slightly less damage to the country and the world than Republicans.

As far as the "Democrats" infecting Guatemalans, they was likely the fledgling CIA, which at the time was somewhat of a joint venture of Democrats and Republicans.

But that's delving into facts, which I doubt that you do much of whether in character or out.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

"What's he gonna do if Republicans take back the reins?"

The more important question is what the Republicans will do. But, of course, we know the answer to that-- a return to what we got under 20 years of Reagan/Bush, and a worsening of mess they created for us, but making sure that the wealthiest 2% get even wealthier while the rest of us pick up the tab.

But it'll also be good news for sweatshops all over the world as they get what's left of jobs Americans used to do.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

While I don't think that Obama's performance has been anything to brag about, there isn't any doubt that the mess we are in is a direct result of Republican economic policies. The Democrats haven't done much better, but that certainly doesn't provide a thinking person much reason to vote for the Repugs.

But you're not a thinking person. You're a reciter of party lines. Unfortunately, there's lots more out there like you.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

"I realize and will concede, Bush and Republicans are just as much to blame."

Hell just froze over.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

Let's replace the Democrats with the Green Party and the Republicans with the Libertarians. And open things up for lots of other parties while we're at it.

somedude20 7 years, 6 months ago

"if you see one movie this year, it should be Frankenhooker."- Bill Murray

Flap Doodle 7 years, 6 months ago

Rahm's gonna need a new gig since it appears that he's not legally qualified to run for mayor in Chicago. Maybe he could head south & give Comrade Hugo a helping hand.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

"Better off dead than Red!!"

Should we follow your example? (Better off brain dead than red, that is.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

I have the distinct impression that you know much more about the teletubbies than you do communists. And I doubt that you know all that much about the TT's.

But at least you aren't imploring Darwin to bless me.

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