Welfare plans and a tilted playing field played in Chávez's favor
Doubts cast over voting secrecy influenced public employees at the polls
Why, despite being in office for 14 years in a country with the fifth highest murder rate in the world and the worst inflation rate in the Americas, was Hugo Chávez overwhelmingly reelected last Sunday?
Why, regardless of blackouts, deficient public services, high unemployment rates, housing shortages and the ongoing prison crisis, did the leader of the revolution win again?
Political scientist Carlos Romero looks at possible answers. For him, there are six reasons; three of them are of a general nature while the other three are circumstantial. The first lot: "1) Chávez had unfair advantages, using material and human resources of the State. Never before had there been such disregard of electoral laws. 2) The president's illness, which helped him forge a bond with the masses. 3) A sense of social protection, in special with welfare programs and housing missions."
He then identifies other causes: "1) Henrique Capriles was pitted against a candidate who has thrived in the political scenario for 20 years; the unified opposition leader started quite late. 2) The opposition did not have enough material resources, especially in the rural areas of the Republic. 3) Unfair advantages with the National Electoral Council, mainly relating to location of voting centers."
Political analyst Carlos Raúl Hernández attempts to address the same question using different reasons. "Both the government and a radical sector of the opposition convinced public employees that voting was not secret," he denounces. He believes that supporters of the "fraud theory" benefitted from the strategy of fear, thus enervating any "possible migration of borderline Chávez supporters to the opposition."
Hernández also believes that the Unified Democratic Panel should have held primary elections at the end of 2011 so that Henrique Capriles would have had more time to spend on the campaign trail.
He went on to say that "at some point opposition campaign team Comando Venezuela may have missed the mark by alluding to the president of the Republic as an old man and may have given the impression that there was no room in the country for people of a certain age."
In the eye of the storm, there are still a few who see the glass half full. "Even though Capriles lost, the opposition gained huge voter support," adds Romero, who pointed out that the campaing included "a significant portion of the popular sector."
In his opinion, "that 45% of votes for the opposition serves as a warning for the president in his aim to instill a hegemonic process that drowns any dissidence."
Romero believes that Capriles's presence in the Venezuelan political scene represents "the rise of a new political generation committed to democracy."
"The campaign succeeded in being non-confrontational, proving that most Venezuelans want to avoid polarization and make amends with the government," he concluded. Based on that assumption, Romero believes that Chávez must take note of the present and facilitate consensus to abate crime, inflation and unemployment rates.
The opposition has no time for regrets. A new, decisive challenge lies ahead on the 16th of December: regional elections.
Hernández supports maintaining and consolidating democracy to be able to put up a fight against the big red machine for regional government posts.
Once again, he questions those who cry "fraud" and who speak of an alleged negotiation between the Unified Democratic Panel and the government to conceal "theft" at the polls.
"They say that the opposition sold out, and the danger of that premise is that it may weaken our current position in light of elections for governors," Hernández.
Translated by Félix Rojas Alva
Luis Jiménez Alfaro seems to have hidden under the rocks. The last time he was seen was on April 2006 walking calmly around Simón Bolívar International Airport of Maiquetía, located nearby Caracas. At that time, more than five tons of cocaine arrived in Mexico in an airplane which took off from Venezuela, and his name featured as a missing piece of the puzzle of one of the most massive drug shipments that has been witnessed in the Western Hemisphere.