The Causes and Consequences of Venezuelan Election Results

Source:  TeleSUR
December 7 2015

by Tamara Pearson

Overall … this loss, while it is a big step back for the progressive cause, it isn’t the end of the line. The global struggle for a world that puts people and planet first, for a democratically controlled economy and so on, is a long term one with many ups and downs, defeats and victories.

venezuelans vote 2015On Dec. 6 Venezuela held its 20th election in 17 years and one of its most difficult yet. With the opposition upping the ante in terms of media attacks and sabotage, 2.5 years of economic difficulties and since the passing of revolutionary leader Hugo Chavez, not to mention a recent right-wing victory in Argentina, the left and right around the world turned anxious eyes to Venezuela.

Ultimately, the Bolivarian revolution (the “Perfect Alliance” of the governing PSUV and other supportive parties and organizations) lost at the polls with the opposition winning at least 99 seats, and 19 still to be decided. Eighty-seven is necessary for a simple majority. But what does this electoral loss mean, politically, and given the current context in Venezuela, what will the consequences of it be, going forward?

Key factors leading to these election results

1) As usual, this year the disinformation by the opposition media has been intense. The opposition’s main campaigning was through local and international media and social media, with very little street campaigning.

2) Many of those who do generally vote for the opposition do so because they want to vote against the government (and everything demonic and evil the private media has made it represent, “Castro-communism,” where even droughts are the national government’s fault) or for ambiguous “change” after 16 years of Chavismo, without being particularly concerned or aware of what that change is. Many of these people are of course upper class people who resent the empowerment of the poor, but their ranks have been swollen by those frustrated by the last two years of serious difficulties.

3) Other key factors bringing people to the opposition include encouragement by the right-wing victory in Argentina, with a Trump like figure due to swear-in as president on Dec. 10, and younger generations in Venezuela who now don’t remember what it was like in Venezuela before Chavez was elected in 1998 (18-year-old voters would have been 3-years-old at the time).

The lack of a solid response to the “economic war.”

4) But while the opposition has attracted some of the less politically aware social sectors to its anti-Chavismo discourse, the government has also lost some ground from conscientious and solid revolutionaries, partly due to its lack of a solid response to the “economic war.” Although it’s easier said than done, to combat a rentier state-capitalist system, historical corruption, and opposition and big business economic sabotage, Maduro has only announced things like national commissions to deal with the situation. While people spend up to seven hours a week lining up for food, and while many of them understand that the government isn’t directly responsible for the situation, the lack of a serious response and significant measures hasn’t helped support for the government.

5) Further, while the government clearly sides with the poor, for multiple reasons including more right-wing attacks, it has becoming increasingly distanced from the organizing grassroots. “The government would have more of a sense of urgency (in solving problems) if it was closer to the people in the street,” Rachael Boothroyd Rojas, community activist and Venezuelanalysis journalist told teleSUR. That distance is relative to other times in the Bolivarian revolution, not to other governments around the world, who don’t come close. However, with the way the government communicates with the people, the way it gets information out and involves people in serious decision making—there has been a step back. This aspect of the Bolivarian revolution is perhaps the most important, so the significance of it and its impact on people shouldn’t be underestimated.

Key Likely Consequences

The consequences are serious, but do not necessarily mark the end. Despite its financial resources and support from international powers and elites, the opposition has not been strategic or intelligent and won’t be strategic with this new power. Under Chavez and the revolution they lost privileges and a lot of their initial measures will be about getting revenge: probably things like kicking out the Cuban doctors, making fun of the poor classes that have lost, continuing to not collect garbage, and enjoying the praise from the international media. They won’t fix the economic problems, that’s not their aim, and after all, they (the business elites and wealthy people with access to dollars) benefit from the crazy exchange rates and huge profits gained from hoarding.

Further, with this and the right-wing win in Argentina, the talk of the left loosing Latin America will strengthen, the media as usual broadcasting how they wish things were rather than any sort of complex analysis. Nevertheless, two such losses will no doubt cause some regional demotivation among progressives and have a significant impact on Latin American integration bodies.

For PSUV politicians, there will hopefully be some reflection, and the government will now be in the difficult position of having to compromise with the opposition—with Maduro and his ministers still in power, but unable to allocate extra income (beyond the budget for 2016, passed on Dec. 1) or modify laws or approve bilateral and multilateral treaties. After the referendum loss in 2007, Chavez moderated his discourse and policies for a while, and Maduro may be forced to do so even more. It’s hard to know if in these circumstances Maduro will turn to the grassroots for more support, or will distrust them even more after loosing some of their support, and if he will see the outcome as a need for reflection, or purely the consequence of opposition sabotage.

Chavistas will continue organizing, promoting their progressive projects, their community organizations, but under more difficult circumstances

For grassroots Chavistas, the majority of whom who have never been involved in the revolution for the sake of financial resources, they will continue organizing, promoting their progressive projects, their community organizations, but under more difficult circumstances. For the first time, they may not feel like the proud, governing majority in the country. On the other hand, an opposition with power is more the reason for strengthening organization. Having lost the luxury of taking victories for granted, the grassroots will likely become even more serious. With an emboldened opposition, they and their projects may also face verbal and physical attacks.

For the wavering voters, in the long term, having the opposition in power could be a bit of a reminder and reality check as they see that things get worse for the majority of people.

That the opposition has won its second out of 20 elections under Chavismo proves that all the U.S, European, opposition, and private media hype about how undemocratic Venezuela’s electoral system is false. Of course, their reaction will be to claim that it was their “international pressure” that kept things in check.

Overall though, this loss, while it is a big step back for the progressive cause, it isn’t the end of the line. The global struggle for a world that puts people and planet first, for a democratically controlled economy and so on, is a long term one with many ups and downs, defeats and victories

Source:  The Causes and Consequences of Venezuelan Election Results

2 thoughts on “The Causes and Consequences of Venezuelan Election Results

  1. There is a lot that should be said about the landslide victory of the right-wing forces in yesterday’s elections in Venezuela.

    However, at this point I will limit myself to four main comments. First, it is true that progress is not linear in any country and indeed in any process including our personal lives. In this regard, the Venezuelan revolution is no exception, namely, revolutions too have ups and downs or zigs and zags and as such the landslide victory of the Venezuelan oligarchy and imperialism is indeed an important setback though not the end of the revolution against their vested political and economic interests.

    Second, the extent to which the revolution not only overcomes this major political setback extended to it by the Venezuelan oligarchy and imperialism will depend largely on the extent to which the progressive and revolutionary forces in Venezuela including first and foremost the Maduro government seriously identify their political and policy blunders, seriously reflect on the and design and implement a strategy to retake the National Assembly from the representatives of the oligarchy and imperialism.

    In this spirit, I fraternal lay disagree with some of the reasons offered for the landslide defeat of the socialists at the polls yesterday. For example, the argument that the disinformation of the reactionary opposition played a role is no doubt true and particularly in an economy under severe assault from capital flight, disinvestment, manufactured food and other shortages, lower oil revenues, violence and other acts of sabotage such disinformation is easier to confuse even some supporters of the government. The disinformation campaign both nationally, regionally and internationally should not be underestimated. However, the fact is that the Maduro government knew or should have known and anticipated the disinformation campaign of its political foes and should have contested their lies and disinformation through all media including social media by supply the requisite information to the people. So whilst, I am not downplaying the potency of the disinformation of the reactionaries and their foreign masters, I am not sure that the propaganda campaign of the government was adequately creative and aggressive to counter their clearly strategic disinformation campaign through social media. In fact it maybe fair to ask whether the Maduro government had a strategy and what exactly was it?

    Third, as it relates to the role of the recent victory of the Argentine oligarchy and imperialism represented in Merci’s victory. Here too, there maybe a role in helping to coalescing the right-wing forces in Venezuela to come out and vote against the socialists. However, does it really take a right-wing victory anywhere in Latin America or elsewhere to unify class conscious and politically committed reactionaries in Venezuela or anywhere? Further even if one concedes the unifying effect of President- elect Merci on the right-wing forces in Venezuela as a reason for their landslide victory, what then is the political explanation for apparently significant numbers of working people and even supporters of the socialists to defect and vote against their class interests?

    To suggest that it is the right-wing campaign of disinformation and Merci’s victory in Argentina that help to explain such a landslide victory in my opinion while they may be important probably require more scrutiny. Where exactly is the evidence particularly of the Merci factor?

    Finally for me, the fundamental reason for the landslide defeat of the socialists at yesterday’s polls is the failure of the socialist government of Maduro to get the economy on track to serve the majority of the people who have always supported the revolution. It is hard to tell but perhaps underestimated the extent of the economic sabotage and the slowing of the economy due to lower oil prices etc on the level of satisfaction of the people. I will remain open minded on this and the other reasons offered as causes for the landslide victory of the oligarchy and imperialism in yesterday’s elections in Venezuela. Time will tell. However, it is equally true that the victory of the political representatives of the oligarchy and its foreign masters is one that puts them in a position of power now and so they will have to make decisions and work with the Maduro government to take the country forward. As such it is going to be very interesting to watch their policy solutions to the very problems for which they have criticized Maduro and Chavez before him such as unemployment, inflation, education, health care, trade with Cuba among others.

    Doesn’t the victory of the right-wing forces prove what progressives and revolutionaries have always known that Venezuela’s government was democratic and not a dictatorship? Those who have eyes let them see one more frequent LIE of imperialism and the Venezuelan oligarchy against revolution!!

    Peace!

  2. Pingback: After Venezuelan Elections, Maduro Calls for ‘Debate, Consultation, Action’ | JSC: Jamaicans in Solidarity with Cuba

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