Venezuela: Chavez’s socialist party wins 20 of 23 states in regional elections; PSUV activists debate party's role

Supporters rally for PSUV candidate for Merida, Alexis Ramirez. Photo from YVKE Mundial.

By Tamara Pearson, Merida

December 16, 2012 -- VenezuelAnalysis -- With all votes counted to the point of results being irreversible, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has won 20 states, and the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition, three states in the December 16 regional elections.

The opposition lost control of Zulia, Tachira, Carabobo, Monagas and Nueva Esparta, but retained Amazonas and Miranda and Lara states.

In Miranda, one of the key states at stake, contested by PSUV ex-vice-president Elias Jaua, and the opposition presidential candidate and current governor of Miranda, Henrique Capriles, the opposition won with 50% to Jaua’s 46%.

In Bolivar state, where the results were very close, the opposition candidate Andres Velasquez is refusing to recognise his defeat and has called on locals to “defend” his “victory”.

Venezuelans and residents chose 23 state governors and 237 state legislators. The results of the state legislative voting have yet to be announced.

In the 2008 regional elections the PSUV won 17 of the 22 states being contested.

For state by state results see below.

Participation levels and voting mood

Turnout was just under 54% , though this varied markedly in different regions. In the 2008 state elections (which were slightly different to these ones in that they also included mayoral elections) participation rate was 65.45% of registered voters.

“In general you can see an environment of apparent calm, with some levels of abstention that have been higher than we expected”, Leonardo Briceno, a teacher from Merida state told’s Ewan Robertson.

The voting mood in many states has been reported to be peaceful, but somewhat apathetic, a contrast to the usual joyful ambience that has marked Venezuelan elections over the last thirteen years.

PSUV leader Jorge Rodriguez said that the “popular” or poorer areas had longer queues and higher participation than other areas.

The head of the operational strategic command for the Bolivarian Armed Forces, Wilmer Barrientos, informed press that the voting process had been carried out with “absolutely normality”, and that only 19 people have been detained, and of those, six people arrested for electoral crimes.

There were 12,748 voting booths, with a total of 36.220 voting machines distributed among them, and 17,421,946 eligible voters, 186,036 of which are foreign born residents.

Full results

Amazonas: PSUV: Nicia Maldonado 37%, MUD: Liborio Guarulla 65%

Anzoategui: PSUV: Aristóbulo Istúriz 53.97% MUD: Antonio Barreto Sira 41.06%

Apure:  PSUV: Ramón Carrizález 59.83% MUD: Luis Lippa 22.42%

Aragua: PSUV: Tareck El Aissami 52.72% MUD: Richard Mardo 42.71%

Barinas: PSUV: Adán Chávez 54.69% MUD: Julio César Reyes 41.72%

Bolivar: PSUV: Francisco Rangel Gómez 43.57% MUD: Andrés Velásquez 42.34%

Carabobo: PSUV: Francisco Ameliach 53.49% MUD: Henrique Salas Feo 42.7%

Cojedes: PSUV: Érika Farías 59.27% MUD: Alberto Galindez 35.31%

Delta Amacuro: PSUV: Lizeta Hernández 61.27% MUD: Arévalo Salazar 20.99%

Falcon: PSUV: Stella Lugo de Montilla 48.28% MUD: Gregorio Graterol 35.28%

Guarico: PSUV: Rodríguez Chacín 70.41% MUD: José Manuel González 25.55%

Lara: PSUV: Luis Reyes Reyes 41.98%  MUD: Henri Falcón 54.35%

Merida: PSUV: Alexis Ramírez 47.56% MUD: Lester Rodríguez 37.96%

Miranda: PSUV: Elías Jaua Milano 46.13% MUD: Henrique Capriles Radonski 50.35%

Monagas:  PSUV: Yelitze Santaella 52. 59% MUD: Soraya Hernández  -  Independent: Jose Briceño: 40.67%

Nueva Esparta: PSUV: Carlos Mata Figueroa 52. 44% MUD: Morel Rodríguez 44.34%

Portuguesa: PSUV: Wilmar Castro Soteldo 50.96% MUD: Iván Colmenares - PCV: Oswaldo Zerpa 22.59%

Sucre:  PSUV: Luis Acuña 56.77% MUD: Hernán Núñez 35.26%

Tachira: PSUV: José Vielma Mora 51.7% MUD: César Pérez Vivas 44.48%

Trujillo: PSUV: Rangel Silva 79.4% MUD: José Hernández 17.31%

Vargas: PSUV: Jorge Luis García Carneiro 69.05%  MUD: José Manuel Olivares 24.13%

Yaracuy: PSUV: Julio León Heredia 57.08% MUD: Biagio Pilieri 36.05%

Zulia: PSUV: Francisco Arias Cárdenas 50.99%  MUD: Pablo Pérez 46.74%.

Venezuela: Campaigns for regional polls were hard fought

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

December 4, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- Despite securing a comfortable victory in the October 2012 presidential election, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is set for a harder struggle in crucial regional elections on December 16.

However, even opposition polls show PSUV is likely to keep control of most governorships. The issue is whether the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) can win or hold key seats, or the PSUV can build on the momentum from the presidential vote and important social gains.

Chavez easily won the October 7 president elections after impressive social gains for the poor majority as a result of the revolution his government leads. Chavez won the popular vote over the right-wing opposition in 22 out of 24 states, but many of the votes for governorships, mayors and municipal candidates look set to be closely fought on December 16.

The high support for Chavez does not necessarily extend to others in his party. Participatory grassroots democracy is one of the principles of the revolution, championed by Chavez, but some pro-Chavez office-bearers have been criticised being bureaucratic, isolated from the grassroots or hostile to the goal of popular democracy. The candidates for December 16 were hand-picked by PSUV leaders, and not all candidates are trusted or supported by the ranks of the Chavista movement.

The US-backed opposition has sought to exploit frustrations at inefficiency, corruption and bureaucracy that have undermined the revolution's popular programs.

The PSUV won 17 governorships in the 2008 election, but the opposition won some key states.

However, since then, the revolution has advanced on a range of fronts ― such as housing, efficiency in the social missions and land reform. Crime and the judicial system remain a source of popular frustration.

Many of the 23 state governor positions and 229 positions in state legislative councils are hotly contested between the PSUV and opposition, particularly in states such as Miranda, Zulia and Merida.

Polls remain split on the outcome in the key battleground state of Miranda, where former PSUV vice-president Elias Jaua will go up against incumbent governor Henrique Capriles Radonski.

Miranda is the second most populous state, and includes key sections of the capital Caracas. Opposition candidate Radonski defeated Chavista incumbent Diosdado Cabello, the PSUV vice-president often identified by grassroots Chavistas as a figurehead for more right-wing, bureaucratic forces in the party.

In recent weeks, Jaua's campaign has been focused on crime ― a key focus of Capriles' failed presidential bid in October.

Jaua has proposed more cooperation between the state and national governments in tackling Miranda's severe crime rates, an initiative opposed by Capriles during his time as governor.

Communist Party of Venezuela

Meanwhile, in the states of Merida, Amazonas, Portuguesa and Bolivar, the PSUV will not only face MUD and independents, but also its ally, the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV). Although far smaller than the PSUV, the PCV is the second largest party that supports Chavez.

PCV leader Douglas Gomez has told Venezuelan media that PCV candidates in these states are not “candidates of Chavez, but they are candidates of the revolutionary process...”

Venezuela Analysis said in the state of Merida, PSUV candidate Alexis Ramirez is “relatively unknown”. But the candidate supported by the PCV, Florencio Porras, has also been criticised. Venezuela Analysis said the two offer revolutionaries a “choice between two bads” for the left.

In Bolivar, the PCV has responded to widespread criticism of the PSUV candidate by registering their own, Manuel Arciniega.

The PSUV governor of Bolivar and candidate for December 16, Francisco Rangel Gomez, has been criticised for anti-worker policies, including working against the development of workers' control in the state, in conflict with government policy.

In 2008, Rangel Gomez backed the management of the Sidor steel firm against striking workers – and used National Guard and local police to attack protesting workers. The dispute ended when Chavez intervened on the side of workers and nationalised the steel plant.

Gomez runs a powerful political machine and enjoys support in the polls. But his PCV opponent has gained ground since coming fourth in the 2008 regional elections in Bolivar.

Critics also claim Gomez is allied with reformists and members of the old union bureaucracy who oppose progressive labour measures supported by the PSUV nationally.

Unlike in Bolivar, in Trujillo state, grassroots dissatisfaction with PSUV candidate Hugo Cabezas resulted in the PSUV switching from Cabezas to defence minister Henry Rangel Silva.

Despite some tensions over candidates, Chavez publicly expressed confidence that “the revolution will triumph in the vast majority of states in Venezuela”.

The election comes amid a national discussion and debate initiated by the PSUV of the government's proposed Socialist Plan of the Nation for 2013-19. Mass assemblies and other forums have been taking place nationwide to discuss radical proposals for the socialist transition.

The results will have an impact ― a strengthening of the pro-Chavez forces will be a further endorsement of the socialist path the government is setting out. A further strengthening of the opposition, however, will make it harder to implement progressive, pro-people measures, giving greater institutional weight to those who oppose them.

Venezuela’s state elections: When winning comes before revolution

By Tamara Pearson, Merida

December 12, 2012 -- VenezuelAnalysis -- “We’ll deal with [the PSUV's problems] when the state elections are over”, a comrade said to me. “Ah, but then there’s the mayoral elections in April”, I replied. Debate within and criticism of the PSUV and its current state election campaign, as well as proper grassroots involvement, would be put off and put off, because in this incredibly democratic country there is always some kind of election coming up. Yet for how long will such sacrifices be made in the name of defeating the capitalist opposition?