Venezuela's Election Lunacy: Results and Consequences
Although Chávez got a majority of the seats, he did not achieve the two-thirds super majority needed to pass special enabling legislation "to appoint and remove, at will, the justices of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the Comptroller, the Prosecutor General, and the Ombudsman."
The opposition parties were unhappy but not crying:
Opposition leaders celebrated at the coalition's headquarters in Caracas, where they hugged and kissed each other amid smiling supporters.
In the western state of Zulia, where the opposition won 12 of the 15 posts up for grabs, Gov. Pablo Perez attributed the opposition's gains to the coalition's decision to field a single candidate for each of the 165 seats being contested.
It was not quite the knockout win Chávez sought, but better than he should have done in view of the widespread problems of crime, food shortage, inflation, and corruption, as well as water and electricity problems. The reported results are not extremely far off from those projected (69 MUD seats, 96 PSUV seats) on September 19 by Daniel Duquenal, a blogger in Venezuela, based to some extent on a "rosy scenario." On September 23, he wrote a very sad article on what seemed likely to happen, noting that:
[Since] February 2009 I have slowly but surely come to grasp that the real problem is that Venezuelans are not democrats and in fact probably never were, except maybe briefly, for a few weeks at most, sometime after the Revolución de Octubre. And they probably never acted as democrats except during the regime of Medina and perhaps up to a point under the presidency of Leoni and the first weeks of the Caldera first term. All the rest of our independent history, that is roughly 96.37%, we have been looking for the Cacique [Big Chief] who will tell us what to do to make out like a bandit.
Notwithstanding the high turnout, some who oppose Chávez may not have bothered to vote -- they knew the fix was in and could see no point in risking governmental retribution. Some nominal Chávez supporters may also have abstained. Calling Venezuela a democracy no more makes it one than calling a donkey an elephant changes its appearance or behavior.
Were otherwise apathetic folks stimulated by fear, Chávez's largess, or otherwise to vote for the PSUV? As noted here, goodies promoted by Chávez/PSUV have included: the "Good Life" credit card, allowing consumers to buy food and other items including electronic household goods in state-run stores; a program for distributing cars operating on natural gas and carrying a guarantee of free maintenance; supermarkets previously taken over by the state offering subsidized food; and the sale of imported electronic devices at below-market prices. Chávez has not been shy about it. A recent broadcast from the presidential palace:
Looked like a 1950s TV commercial: an avuncular man in a shiny kitchen explaining to a housewife the wonders of a new fridge. "Feel the lines on it. Nice, eh? And wait till I tell you about the discount."
In the mock kitchen Chávez, 56, a TV natural, flirted with the housewife, commended the Chinese ambassador, who hovered nearby, and addressed viewers directly as he patted the fridge. Capitalist rip-off merchants were cheating the people, he said, but socialism would fix that. "The Chávez price isn't even $450, no ... It's $341!" An off-screen audience broke into applause and cheers.
Chávez didn't say this, but perhaps should have:
It chops, minces, slices and dices with just a tap. Get the Chávez Quick Chop now! Just $1.00 per month for [garble] months with your Good Life credit card! There's even a free lottery ticket, with the grand prize: a breast enhancement! Buy now and you may be the next Miss Venezuela!
The breast enhancement idea would not be new, as one candidate had already held such a lottery.