After what I considered to be a done deal, Sunday’s voting in Venezuela shocked more than a few analyst and has sparked a great deal of dialog about the voting out come. I have been closely watching the Venezuelan referendum unfold over the last few weeks. I heard the voting would be close and pre-vote polling was close, but my internal skepticism said this was all but a done deal. On Saturday, I would have said there was a 10% chance of the referendum not going through. Boy, was I wrong. The commentary and analysis will likely go on about this for some time, because of its significance in modern socialism. I wanted to post some comments from the FT (free subscription required).
Analysts suggest that the urban poor were unenthusiastic about the constitutional proposals that would have granted the president sweeping new powers, including the ability to be re-elected indefinitely, and accelerated the introduction of “21st century socialism” into Venezuela.
“Chávez was out of step with the wishes of the poorer sectors of the population that support him,” says Edgardo Lander, a leftwing political scientist at the Central University of Venezuela. “He had interpreted his election victory in 2006 as a kind of carte blanche to do whatever he wanted, but in reality it’s not like that.”
Others suggest that economic distortions resulting from price and exchange rate controls and a sharp fall in private investment in farming and manufacturing have hit the government hard. Despite the oil bonanza, in the state-run supermarkets where the poor shop many basic foodstuffs – such as milk and sugar – are in short supply.
Steve Ellner, a political scientist at the Oriente University in Venezuela, says the government may need to pay more attention to problems such as refuse collection and crime in poor areas.
“With all their lofty ideals the Chavistas are maybe paying less attention [than they should] to these tangible and specific things.”
In addition, although Mr Chávez last year won a strong popular mandate to press ahead with reforms, his radicalism has alienated many erstwhile supporters and created new opponents.
Overlooked poor bite back at Chávez
By Richard Lapper and Benedict Mander in Caracas
Published: December 3 2007 20:39