President Hugo Chavez Venezuelan United Socialist Party, PSUV finally obtained 98 seats in last Sunday’s legislative election while the opposition managed 65, according to the primary proclamations based on official data from the country’s different regions.
Chavez said in a press conference his party has the absolute majority in the one chamber National Assembly (165 seats), but PSUV fell short of the 110 equivalent to the necessary two thirds needed to sanction bills to keep advancing along the path of the Bolivarian revolution.
On its side the Unity Table, a catch all conglomerate that brings together all opposition factions obtained 65 seats while the remaining two went for the left wing Motherland for All party, PPT, aligned with Chavez.
Over 11.2 million Venezuelans turned out for Sunday’s election equivalent to 66.4% of registered voters.
The first reaction from President Chavez in his Twitter was to downplay the opposition’s performance.
“The squalid (opposition) are saying that they won. Well, continue winning that way” he said. Speaking to his followers Chavez stated: “Good morning my battling people: a short rest to recover breath and then back again to the big Battle for the revolution”.
President Chavez who has won a streak of eleven elections since 1999 having lost only one in 2007, on Sunday did not appear at the “people’s balcony” in Government House in spite of the hundreds of militants that gathered to listen to him.
This was interpreted by the opposition as Chavez acknowledgement he had not achieved his goal of retaining two thirds majority in congress.
The opposition claimed it has fewer seats than expected because of the gerrymandering of electoral districts imposed by Chavez ahead of the election, which seriously curtailed minority representation.
The Unity Table conglomerate alleges to have garnered 52% of the total vote compared to 48% for Chavez PSUV.
However political observers in Caracas believe Sunday’s results will force Chavez to re-program his whole strategy ahead of the 2012 presidential election when he will be running for a third mandate.
“The next two years will be intense in political campaigning because with Sunday’s results and an only opposition candidate, in a presidential ballot, the winner would not have been Chavez”, said political scientist Angel Alvarez.
“This changes considerably the 2012 scenario. Chavez always speaks from the eternity as if his government and leadership have not limits, but Venezuelans have again sent the message he is politically mortal, he is vulnerable” said Alberto Barrera, another expert in Venezuelan electoral systems and results.
Based on a controversial 2009 bill which implemented the gerrymandering, the opposition seems to have won in the number of votes, “but lost in the number of seats”.
“The president will now have to explain to the world, how using all the resources of the state he has a majority in the national assembly which does not reflect the results of the popular vote”, said re-elected assembly opposition member Ismael Garcia.