By Luisa Blanco, September 28, 2010 in Outside the Classroom
The legislative elections of 2010 are important for Venezuela’s history as they might provide some power to the opposition. In these elections, 165 out 167 legislative seats are at stake. In terms of fair electoral practices the situation has not changed in Venezuela from the last legislative elections of 2005; some critics claim Chavez continues to buy votes and use intimidation techniques to increase support for his party. In fact, redistricting has been used as a tool to increase the amount of seats for those districts that support the president and diminish those seats from districts that support the opposition. While the situation still looks grim for the opposition, the opposition has taken a different strategy in these elections. Instead of boycotting the electoral process in response to Chavez abuses in the electoral process (as it was done in the 2005 elections), the opposition has chosen to focus on encouraging people to vote, which in turn made elections run smoothly this time.
While nothing ensures that elections will be fair this time, and there is a high probability that majority support for Chavez in the legislative continues (either by vote or by fraud), the opposition actions have shown how valuable it is to follow the democratic process regardless of the outcome. In these elections, there is a chance that the opposition might get some seats that will provide some checks and balances to the legislative process and to block extreme legislation. The opposition has taken the chance because it believes in democracy. Even if the votes are not enough to ensure major changes in the legislative, these elections will show how people feel about Chavez government.
The results of these elections are very important for the presidential elections of 2012 and for the future of Venezuela. Chavez will run in the 2012 elections, as a result of the constitutional referendum that took place in 2009 that eliminated term limits for the president and other government officials (he has been in power since 1999), and it is important that the opposition expresses itself in the elections of 2010 through the democratic process. Results from these elections will provide a signal of how people feel about the Bolivarian Revolution. Venezuela’s economy in the last years has deteriorated significantly, experiencing high inflation (around 30 percent in August of 2010), food and energy shortages, and overall macroeconomic instability. Another important factor that characterizes Venezuela is the rise of crime and the absence of the rule of law. Thus, it is through the democratic process where citizens need to be able to express how do they feel about the current government. If the opposition is able to ensure a large share of the votes, this will prove that Venezuela might not support the economic and social model proposed by Chavez in the 2012 elections.
While official results from the elections have not been released, the latest electoral tally shows that the opposition was able to ensure 52 percent of the popular vote. With these results Chavez continues to have a majority in the national assembly, with around 96 seats, but he no longer has the two-thirds majority that allows for passing legislation in congress single handedly. This is a big step towards a more democratic environment in Venezuela, where checks and balances in the congress will be brought back.
Results from the elections of 2010 might prove that people in Venezuela do not see the socialist model as the best economic model to follow in the future. While social programs in Venezuela have expanded under Chavez, thanks to the high oil revenues, Venezuelans are becoming aware that this model is unsustainable in the long run. With Chavez, the government has taken a central role in the production process, and nationalization of the means of production and confiscation has escalated in the last couple of years. This has brought high uncertainty and inefficiencies to Venezuela’s economy. There is also evidence of authoritarianism in Chavez government, high corruption, and abuses to the system by Chavistas. Venezuela’s society is suffering today the excess of Chavez’ government and is ready for a change. Thanks to the democratic process, individuals are able to express how they feel about the current government, and can change the political system to reflect their desires. Thus, it is important that the international community makes an effort to ensure that electoral processes are fair in Venezuela. The international community must monitor the situation in Venezuela in the next couple of years so that the elections of 2012 run appropriately. The opposition has finally achieved a victory in the 2010 elections, after 10 years of setbacks, which will put them in a better shape for future elections. Congratulations Venezuela on your road back to true democracy!
Final Elections Results can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_parliamentary_election,_2010