Thursday, 7 October 2010

Venezuela's National Assembly elections 2010

PSUV majority reduced but opposition makes losses compared to 2001-2005
written for RATB by Sam McGill, 1 October 2010.

On Sunday 26th September Venezuela went to the ballot box to determine its National Assembly delegates for the next five years. According to results released so far by the National Electoral Council (CNE), Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 96 seats and the opposition’s United Democratic Roundtable coalition (MUD) won 63 seats. The social democratic Fatherland for All (PPT) party which split from the PSUV earlier this year won two seats. The three indigenous people’s representatives are not officially aligned with the PSUV or the MUD, but one is considered to be an ally of the PSUV, one an ally of the MUD, and one an ally of the PPT. One last seat in Carabobo state is still being calculated. PSUV won the majority of the seats in 16 of Venezuela’s 23 states.

The MUD won in the Colombian border states of Táchira and Zulia where landowners have repeatedly hired Colombian paramilitaries to crush land occupations and peasant militias, however, the PSUV won seven seats in the Capital District, compared to three for the MUD, and also won in the major industrial states of Bolivar and Carabobo. Abstention in National Assembly elections is usually high as it doesn’t determine the presidency. However September’s elections saw a record turn out of 66.45% and were monitored by a team of 150 international observers who complemented the CNE for its efforts to increase voter participation and to facilitate the voting process by placing extra machines in highly populated areas.

Although the PSUV held 84% of the seats at the National Assembly between 2006 and 2010 this was because the Opposition boycotted the National Assembly elections in 2005 and therefore did not win any seats. In order to understand the relative strength of the opposition currently, we must compare last Sunday’s results to the elections in 2000. During the 2001-2005 term, the Movement for the Fifth Republic became the PSUV and there were various splits and mergers as a result. Throughout these five years, pro-Chavez parties held between 83 and 92 seats at any given time, while opposition parties held between 73 and 82 seats. Therefore, in comparison to the last elections they participated in, the opposition actually lost around 20 seats whilst the PSUV gained seats. However the results fell short of the two-thirds majority (110 seats) that the PSUV aimed for in order to secure the progress of the Bolivarian Revolution.

With an absolute majority in the National Assembly, the PSUV will be able to control the passage of ordinary laws and most other functions of the legislative body. However, without the two-thirds majority the PSUV will not be able to control the passage of organic laws - enabling laws that give decree power to the president - and some appointments to other branches of the government. The opposition will now be able to block some parliamentary proceedings and slow down the legislative process. During 2001-2005 the National Assembly meetings saw the burning of draft laws, physical violence, obstructions preventing the President of the Assembly from chairing and countless walkouts. This type of disturbance is likely to reoccur. However, even if all 65 MUD deputies walk out, quorum will not be broken and legislation can still be passed as according to procedural rules, 50% of the deputies plus one (83) is required and PSUV has 98.

Despite achieving their objective of gaining a third of the seats, the opposition has already accused the CNE of manipulating the results to favour the PSUV. On Monday 27 September, MUD leader Ramón Aveledo said MUD candidates received 52% of the total number of votes cast nation-wide. According to the CNE the PSUV received 50.5% and the MUD coalition 49.5%. The opposition used dirty tricks to calculate their 4% advantage by adding the votes of all the small parties outside of the MUD coalition. Despite the CNE results refuting these claims, the damage was done as the international capitalists screamed that Chavez was on his way out and the opposition had the backing of the majority of the population.

The new National Assembly will not convene until 5 January 2011, allowing the current Assembly to finalise current proposed legislation. A key part of this legislation relates to the financial sector. On 18 August, a reform to the Bank Law was passed, preventing media owners and stock holders from managing banks and preventing stock brokers trading national public debt. The National Assembly is also developing a new Law of Bank Activity, pushing forward structures to control the private-dominated banking sector.

Read more about the background to the Venezuelan National Assembly elections, and also my article in the current issue of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 217 October/November 2010.