November 23, 2008 — President Hugo Chavez’s governing party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), got mixed results in the regional and local elections today, winning strongly in 17 out of 23 states, but losing the country’s two most populous states and the Capital District of Caracas, with two more states still to be decided.
At midnight Venezuelan time, about eight hours after the first polls closed, the president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, announced the results of the regional and local elections, with 95% of the vote counted.
According to Lucena, participation had reached an unprecedented high for a regional vote, at 65.45%. Over 17 million voters were registered, which is several million more than in the last such election four years ago. As a result, lines tended to be long and many polling places had to remain open far longer than the official closing time of 4pm.
Chávez’s PSUV lost the governorships of the two most populous states, Miranda and Zulia, and the mayor’s office of greater Caracas, which will be a significant blow to Chávez and his movement.
The perhaps greatest surprise is the upset victory, with 52.45% of the vote, of opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, of the Brave People’s Alliance, in greater Caracas. Ledezma once was governor of the city, from 1992 to 1995, when it was an appointed office. He was then elected as mayor of the city’s main municipality of Libertador in 1995. Ledezma is considered to be an integral part of the country’s old political guard, given his ties to former President Carlos Andrés Pérez.
His challenger this time around was Aristóbulo Isturiz, also a former mayor of Libertador, and former education minister for Chávez. Isturiz is one of the few Afro-Venezuelan politicians of Venezuela with national name recognition.
The other upset victory is in the state of Miranda, one of the country’s most populous and wealthiest states, where Henrique Capriles Radonski won with 52.56% of the vote, against Diosdado Cabello, the incumbent governor and close confidant of President Chávez. Capriles was able to win on the basis of his success as mayor of the upper-class Caracas municipality of Baruta, against Cabello’s relatively poor performance in Miranda.
Finally, the third key opposition victory was in Zulia, where Pablo Pérez, the right-hand man of current governor and opposition leader Manuel Rosales, beat Gian Carlo Di Martino 53.6% to 45.0%. Zulia is another relatively wealthy state with some of the country’s main oil deposits and the largest population.
Another opposition win was in the state of Nueva Esparta, which is mainly the tourist island of Margarita, and which was generally an expected opposition victory.
States where the opposition might still win include the industrial state of Carabobo, where the former opposition governor Henrique Salas Feo is running against PSUV candidate Mario Silva, who is the former host of the satirical talk show “The Razor Blade.” The other state for which no result has been announced is the border state of Táchira, on the Colombian border.
The 17 states where Chávez’s candidates won, they managed to do so often by beating both the opposition candidates and dissident Chávez supporters. For example, PSUV candidate and former communications minister Willian Lara beat, with 52.1% of the vote, Lenny Manuitt, the daughter of the former pro-Chávez governor in Guarico state.
Whilst it was aimed to have voting centers closed by 4pm, the president of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, said that they would remain open as long as there were voters in waiting in line to vote. Some opposition leaders, including Julio Borges from Justice First party, Henry Ramos from Democratic Action and Ismael García from We Can, denounced the extension of voting hours and threatened not to recognize the results.
By 9pm, according to the chief of the Strategic Operational Command (CEO), General Jesús González, more than 50 people had been arrested and 106 detained for various electoral crimes. Other than that voting was considered to have proceeded very normally and calmly.
Gonzalez said the vast majority of the crimes were destruction of electoral material, and for distributing political pamphlets. A large proportion of the violations were for tearing up the voting receipt.
In the state of Anzoategui a group of people on motorbikes removed two rifles from militia acting as part of Plan Republic, aimed at protecting the voting center.
Chávez Congratulates Nation
In a late-night address to the nation, President Chávez congratulated the Venezuelan people for having participated in the electoral event in a “civic and joyful” manner.
The event “ratifies” Venezuelan democracy, but not like the “democracy before” his election to the presidency, which “belonged to the elites,” said Chávez.
Chávez also conceded defeat in the state of Miranda and of the capital district, asking, “Who can say that there is a dictatorship in Venezuela? Well, perhaps some will continue to say so.”
However, he highlighted that of the 17 governorships his party had won, eight of these it won with about 60% of the vote and the others with about 10% difference to the closest rival. Also, his party garnered about six million votes, which represents a significant development for his recently formed party, the PSUV.
This result for the PSUV compares to the approximately four million votes the opposition obtained, according to PSUV vice-president Alberto Müller Rojas, and thus maintains the ratio of previous elections (except last year’s constitutional reform referendum, which was barely lost 51-49), of more or less 60-40 in favor of Chavez’s Bolivarian movement.
For Chávez, “The construction of socialism in Venezuela is ratified and now we will take charge of deepening it.”
Tarek William Saab (PSUV) 55.06%
Gustavo Marcano 40.50%
Jesús Aguilarte (PSUV) 56.48%
Miriam de Montilla 26.54%
Rafael Isea (PSUV) 58.56%
Henry Rosales 40.17%
Adán Chávez (PSUV) 49.63%
Julio Cesar Reyes 44.58%
Francisco Rangel (PSUV) 46.97%
Andrés Velásquez 30.47%
Willian Lara (PSUV) 52.08%
Lenny Manuitt 33.68%
Henri Falcón (PSUV) 73,15%
Pedro Alcántara 14,85%
Marcos Díaz (PSUV) 54.62%
Williams Dávila 45.11%
Henrique Capriles Radonsky 52.56 %
Diosdado Cabello (PSUV) 36.74%
Enrique Maestre (PSUV) 56.08%
Eduardo Morales 42.62%Vargas
Jorge García Carneiro (PSUV) 61.56%
Roberto Smith 32.18%
Pablo Pérez 53.59%
Gian Carlo Di Martino (PSUV) 45.02%
Stella Lugo (PSUV) 55.27 %
Gregorio Graterol 44.49%
Jose Briceño (PSUV) 64.79%
Domingo Urbina 15.41 %
Morel Rodríguez: 57,64
William Fariñas (PSUV): 41,69%
Wilmar Castro Soteldo (PSUV) 57%
Jovito Villegas 27.28%
Hugo Cesar Cabezas (PSUV) 59.47%
Henrique Catalán 27%
Capital District of Caracas
Antonio Ledezma 52.45%
Aristóbulo Istúriz (PSUV) 44.92%
Libertador Municipality of Caracas
Jorge Rodríguez (PSUV) 53.05%
Iván Stalin González 41.92%
Tamara Pearson also contributed to this article.
Greg Wilpert is editor of Venezuelanalysis.com and author of Changing Venezuela: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government. This article first appeared in Venezuelanalysis.com on 24 November 2008.