Chavez won with 8,044,106 votes, or 55.11% to Capriles’ 6,461,612 (44.27%) for a difference of 1,582,494 votes, or almost 11%. Chavez also won in 21 states and the Capital District (Caracas), and lost to Capriles in Merida (Capriles is governor of Merida) and Tachira states,. Chaves won in Zulia and Carabobo where there are currently opposition governors.
Although 11% is a huge lead by Western standards, compared to the 2006 presidentials (when Chavez got 62.9% of the vote, and Manuel Rosales 36.9%; a difference of 26%) it’s quite narrow when it comes to state elections in December. The popularity of local personalities can overshadow the politics they stand for.
Due to high voter turnout of 81%, both sides received a record number of votes, but the opposition’s 6.5 million was a good 20-50% more than what has been its standard 4 to 5 million over the last 13 years.
The Chavista vote of 8 million was also significantly higher than its standard 6 or so million in elections, an increase of 33%.
80.9% of Venezuelans voluntarily voted yesterday; a historic record for Venezuela and a remarkable number compared to voluntary elections in other parts of the world. In the 2006 Venezuelan presidential elections, 75% turned out to vote.
Venezuelans, like all South Americans, feel very strongly about the democracies they have created, they were not a gift, they had to fight for them against US supported dictators or Germany supported dictator in the case of Paraguay. So when there is a danger of another American stooge becoming installed people react by going to vote in increasing numbers.
Those fears intensified when they saw the entire Western controlled international media supporting Capriles – they could read daily the defamations and disinformations spread by Western media for the benefit of their lesser educated parts of their populations. This all indicated that another “parliamentarian coup in Honduras or Paraguay style” was in the making. Even The Guardian in UK run an article series that predicted the demise of Chavez. The Guardian interpreted statistics in a way that painted a picture of Venezuela that made Greece look like heaven on earth.
This kind of “creative journalism” makes a point of excluding facts, so let me give you some:
When Chavez became president in 1999 he inherited a legacy of endless US-supported dictatorships resulting in an economy where hardly anyone could write or read, no schools, no healthcare, poverty, the poorest country in South America. A few wealthy oligarchs shared the oil revenue with US-based oil companies, the people had nothing.
Today all can read and write, an excellent healthcare system that is free for all, the minimum wage of US$700 is the highest in South America. Chavez nationalised oil and spends the revenue for the benefit of the people. Doctors and teachers from Cuba provide these services in exchange for oil. Students study in Cuba to replace them in the long run.
Universities are being established, tuition is free and graduates stay in the country and replace Cubans.
That’s the reason why Chavez survived the US-lead coup against him in 2002 and the people reelected him in 2006 and again this Sunday.
In contrast, Capriles focused his campaign on ending support of and solidarity with other South American countries – a concept of selfishness alienating South American mentality.
Venezuela is building a participatory democracy, and people’s understanding and concern for democracy is high. The powers invested in the president are limited. Important legistation and executive rest with the states governed by parliaments and a governor.
For example, oligarchs have a tendency to take the advise of foreign NGOs that carry “freedom and democracy” in their names to take their land out of food production. So Chavez seeks to confiscate that land and give it to cooperatives for organic food production. This confiscation is subject to a legal process determined by the states. This legal process varies in lenths and outcome, often resulting in unrests as the people have a limited understanding of and for that process. Western media reports this as human rights violations. Venezuela has to import 70% of its food and that percentage is growing.
So the state elections in December are decisive, Chavez can only continue with his reforms successfully if his supporters can win all states. The opposition will be encouraged by the 44% they gained on Sunday.
Also, in a number of states, although they lost, the result was close enough that with a strong campaign, or a bad candidate representing the Chavistas, the opposition would have a chance. Those states include Capital District, Amazonas, Anzoategui, Bolivar, Carabobo, Lara, Nueva Esparta, and Zulia, as well as the two states where Capriles won.
So there is plenty of potential and opportunity for outside interests to interfere. Perhaps The Guardian will start a new article series.