Venezuela's regional elections

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Sunday’s regional elections in Venezuela saw a record turnout of 65% of eligible voters. This is high both by Venezuela’s standards (45% of voters came out for the 2004 regional elections) and by global standards (about 62% of voters came out during the U.S. presidential election this year). In the short-term, President Hugo Chavez and the opposition ended in a draw, as the opposition gained control over the mayorship of Caracas and 4 states (including the 2 most populous), but the PSUV (Chavez’s party) maintained control of 17 states. In the long-term, though, this is an important victory for the opposition. Even though they won only 5 of the 22 territories, they will govern nearly half of Venezuela’s population. This grants the opposition a better platform to share their concerns with the general population and to build a political base for future elections. It also means Chavez will also have to tolerate – and even cooperate with – opposition regional governments in order to keep the trappings of democracy. For a few more thoughts on the subject, I talked to PBS’s World Focus last night: