Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Chavez could gain strength in National Assembly 

When Hugo Chavez was re-elected as president of Venezuela in 2000 his political party, the MVR, also won a large majority of the 165 seats in the unicameral National Assembly. Over time that majority has diminished as some formerly pro-Chavez Assembly members have switched to the opposition. However, Chavez has always enjoyed majority support there as the breakdown of the Assembly was 84 pro-Chavez members to 81 pro-opposition members. These numbers have been steady for some time now.

However, recent events indicate they may be changing, and in Chavez's favor. First, opposition assembly member Wilfredo Rojas recently died in an automobile accident. In Venezuela, when an assembly person is removed from office they do not hold elections to replace them. Rather all assembly members have atlernate members who were elected at the same time but who only take office if the assembly person leaves office for any reason. In the case of Mr. Roja, his alternate is a pro-Chavez person named Henry Baldayo. So this will change the breakdown in the assembly to 85 - 80 in favor of Chavez.

Additionally, as a result of the recall petioning process there are nine opposition who are subject to recall (the opposition did not get enough signatures to recall any pro-Chavez assembly people). Of those nine assembly people two have pro-Chavez alternates. That is, if they are successfully voted out of office they will be replaced by pro-Chavez people. The other seven have opposition alternates so even if they are voted out it will not alter the political balance in the Assembly. The actual recall votes are scheduled for August.

None of this will fundamentally alter the balance of power in the Assembly but it will give President Chavez more of a cushion and enable him to more readily pass his legislation.


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