Monday, December 04, 2006

The meaning of December 3rd 

Truthfully, yesterday was fairly anti-climatic. Anyone who wasn’t willfully blind knew who was going to win, and more or less by how much (a certain Oil Wars blog sure seemed to get real close!).

Nevertheless, there are important conclusions to be drawn. So lets go through them.

First, regardless of what some rather dimwitted opposition bloggers have been trying to say polls by serious pollsters are actually pretty accurate. All the main polling companies in Venezuela, even those aligned with the opposition got it right. Only the clearly fake polling firms and the foreign right wing mercenary polling firms got it wrong.

Second, no one in Venezuela is afraid. People openly told pollsters all along who they supported and why – and their votes yesterday served to confirm that. Any notion that it was voters concern about the secrecy of the vote that compelled them to vote for Chavez was blown out of the water as Chavez generally got higher vote totals in states without the fingerprint machines than in states where they were used.

Third, the more Venezuelans see of Chavez the more they like him. Often times after eight years people will tend to tire of any office holder, no matter how good a job they think that person is doing. Not Chavez. His percentage of the vote in this election was HIGHER than in any of his previous elections. That is, as he implements his policies he is getting more popular, not less.

Fourth, Chavez clearly has a mandate. For years the opposition has argued he had no mandate to do what he has done. They claimed that in 1998 people didn’t know what they were voting for. The 2000 vote they pretty much ignored by them. And the 2004 recall referendum they claimed was fraudulent. Now he has clearly won an election where no reasonable person could claim they didn’t know what they were voting for. The vote yesterday in Venezuela is exactly the stuff mandates are made of. And it is a HUGE mandate.

Lastly, Chavez now has an enormous amount of political capital. He has an allied National Assembly. For the foreseeable future he can govern as he sees fit as no one – not opposition politicians, not the opposition media, not the international community, will be standing in his way. If he wants to do anything controversial or potentially unpopular now is the time to do it. If he wants to “right-size” the government payroll by laying people off, he can do it. If he wants to increase the taxes on the well off, he can do it. If he wants to move ahead with land reform and cooperatives, he can do it. If he needs to move against corrupt special interests, even within his own political movement, he can do it. Political capital not spent is simply lost. So the time to act is now. 2007 should be a very interesting year in Venezuela. I’m looking forward to it.


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