The National Assembly elections held in Venezuela on September 26 have produced a clear mandate for continuing and deepening the Bolivarian revolution being led by socialist President Hugo Chavez.
Of the 165 deputies elected, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 95 (60% of the National Assembly) and the right-wing Democratic Unity Coalition (MUD) won 60 (40%). Both the PSUV-allied Communist Party and the opposition Fatherland for All (PPT) won three seats. While the official count has yet to be announced, President Chavez has reported that the PSUV and its allies received 5,422,040 votes while the opposition alliance received 5,320,175 votes.
The elections were also an important victory for the revolution because they showed, once again, that the capitalist media’s constant portrayals of the Venezuelan government as “dictatorial” are absurd. There was a historic level of participation in these Assembly elections, with 66.45% of eligible voters exercising their right to vote – a far greater proportion than in any national election in the United States.
International observers – including participants in the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network’s brigade to Venezuela in September – reported that the process was conducted peacefully and thoroughly democratically. Even the opposition, which has repeatedly claimed “electoral fraud” since Chavez was elected president in 1998, has acknowledged that the election was free and fair.
The opposition abstained from participating in the last (2005) Assembly elections. This gave pro-Chavez legislators147 seats, a huge majority that was inevitably going to decrease with the opposition deciding to contest this election.
While the PSUV and its allies did not achieve the two-thirds of seats needed to have an absolute majority in the parliament, the results clearly show that the majority of the population prefers the anti-capitalist and socialist path. In the words of Venezuela's vice-president, Elias Jaua, the result “will enable Commander Hugo Chavez to continue governing, giving power back to people and building the path to socialism”.
The broader social-political context in which the majority of people voted for the revolution underlines the strength of the Venezuelan poor’s desire for the radical change that Chavez represents. Just in the last 12 months, the Chavez government has faced:
* the impacts of the global financial crisis;
* widespread sabotage of basic services and infrastructure, especially by the agriculture capitalists;
* a constant propaganda assault by the 75-80% of Venezuelan mass media controlled by opponents of the revolution;
* massive amounts of funding for the opposition provided by the United States; and
* escalating military aggression by the US, including the threat of war.
A report commissioned by the National Endowment for Democracy and published in May 2010 by the Spanish Foundation for International Relations and Foreign Dialogue revealed that this year alone, international agencies – most particularly the US government agency USAID - are investing between $40-50 million in anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela. A large part of those funds have been channelled to the opposition MUD.
There is no doubt that the right wing will use its new positions in parliament to escalate its efforts to stall, sabotage and undermine the revolutionary process. Their goal is to undermine the leadership of Hugo Chavez (the next presidential election is in 2012) and roll back the significant changes in favour of the majority in Venezuela.
These gains were recently outlined by Venezuela’s ambassador to the United Nations, Jorge Valero, when he reported to the plenary session of the United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals on September 21. He pointed out that Venezuela is one of the tiny number of countries that has achieved the majority of the Millennium Development Goals, including:
* Between 1999 and 2009, 60% of all of Venezuela’s revenues have been invested in social programs.
* Between 1998 and 2009, the level of poverty was reduced, from more than 49% to 24.2%. Levels of extreme poverty decreased dramatically, from 29.8% in 2003 to 7.2% in 2009.
* The UN’s Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean has recognised that Venezuela is the country that has most diminished inequality in that region.
* Between 1998 and 2009, unemployment fell by more than 50%, to 6.6%.
* In 2005 the revolution eradicated illiteracy, an achievement recognised by UNESCO.
These are precious steps forward for the people of Venezuela, who will not give them up without a fight. The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network offers its full solidarity to that ongoing struggle, and congratulates the courageous people of Venezuela for their election victory. In the words of President Chavez, it is a victory that makes it possible to “continue deepening Bolivarian and democratic socialism ... continue strengthening the revolution".
Viva people’s power!
Viva the Bolivarian revolution!