Monday, December 03, 2007

CHAVEZ LOSES

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Wow.

Truly astonishing.

Hugo Chavez has lost.

In a nation-wide referendum held on Sunday, Venezuelans voted against the constitutional reforms proposed by Chavez and approved by his parliamentary rubber-stampers.

For background, see my previous post here.

And make sure to check out our friend Daniel at Venezuela News and Views, that country's courageous voice of liberalism in the blogosphere.

The vote was, for a time, too close to call. Officials were citing exit polls showing the YES side ahead, but the opposition was claiming that the NO side would prevail.

The National Electoral Council has declared, however, that the NO side won 51-49 -- see the BBC for the latest (and see also a Q&A and additional background).

Here's the Times:

The results were a stunning defeat for a leader who was trying to extend already broad powers and lead his country in a radical new direction.

The commission said 50.7 percent voted against the referendum and 49.3 percent voted in favor. The results were all the more surprising given that Mr. Chávez and his supporters control nearly all of the levers of power.

"The result is quarrelsome," Vice President Jorge Rodríguez said in comments broadcast on national television.

Quarrelsome -- an odd choice of adjective. Evidently, you are being hostile and contentious and combative if you don't support Chavez's tyrannical ways.

Democracy has prevailed in Venezuela. For now.

**********

The Times article has been updated:

It was the first major electoral defeat in the nine years of his presidency. Voters rejected the 69 proposed amendments 51 to 49 percent.

The political opposition erupted into celebration, shooting fireworks into the air and honking car horns, when electoral officials announced the results at 1:20 a.m. The nation had remained on edge since polls closed Sunday afternoon and the wait for results began.

The outcome is a stunning development in a country where Mr. Chávez and his supporters control nearly all of the levers of power. Almost immediately after the results were broadcast on state television, Mr. Chávez conceded defeat, describing the results as a "photo finish."

"I congratulate my adversaries for this victory," he said. "For now, we could not do it."

For now -- which is to ask, what now?

Hard to say. Honestly, I did not predict this. In fact, I thought Chavez would find a way to win, any way.

He threatened to resign if his reforms were defeated, if he was defeated, but he won't. This vote may slow down his "revolution," his slice-by-slice coup, his gradual acquisition of tyrannical rule, but he will remain in power and he will try again. And again. Until he gets what he wants.

The people have spoken and rebuked him by a narrow margin, but they have not stopped him.

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