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Supporters of the Venezuelan government celebrated their victory in the municipal polls held on December 8, with the Venezuelan media widely praising the peaceful nature of the elections.
Of a total of 337 municipalities the PSUV - the United Socialist Party led by President Nicolas Maduro - won 210, the right-wing opposition MUD 53, other parties eight and the rest are still undecided.
In terms of the popular vote, the PSUV as an organisation got 44.16 per cent, the MUD 40.96 per cent, the PCV (Venezuelan Communist Party, which supports Maduro and the Bolivarian process) 1.6 per cent, and others 13.36 per cent.
If you look at the votes for candidates then this becomes even more impressive, with PSUV candidates, supported by a range of progressive organisations, receiving 49.24 per cent and the opposition candidates, supported by MUD and other parties, 42.72 per cent and others receiving 8.03 per cent.
After the results were announced President Maduro spoke from Plaza Bolivar in Caracas, arguing that "without a doubt we've obtained a great victory today, the people of Venezuela have said to the world that the Bolivarian revolution continues with more strength than ever."
According to President Maduro, once the sums were done other parties allocated in terms of "what side they are on," 54 per cent of voters were pro the revolution to 45 per cent against.
Maduro also responded to opposition leader Henrique Capriles's argument that the municipal elections would be a "plebiscite" on the government's mandate, saying: "I hope that he [Capriles] learns about humility and shows his face to the country and resigns from the political leadership of the MUD."
Backed up and buoyed by the impressive election results, Maduro also announced the government's economic and political priorities for 2014, saying that he would soon set out a comprehensive policy landscape to regulate costs, prices and profits "for all the products in the country [and] for all sectors," adding that "it can be done and we're going to consolidate it."
He said he would also look at measures against overpricing in the property and housing sectors.
Additionally, a new stage in the popular Street Government initiative will be launched in the new year with further policy priorities revealed, including developing the housing mission and the community renovation and regeneration programme Barrio Nuevo, the improvement of public hospitals, the guarantee of a drinking water supply to all homes and the expansion of the anti-crime Safe Homeland Plan.
Beyond the immediate situation, what does this victory represent for the landscape of Venezuelan politics more widely?
Tamara Pearson, Venezuelan-based writer for Venezuelanalysis.com, has convincingly argued that "despite being local elections, because of the political weight they were given, particularly by the opposition, the results consolidate Maduro's leadership."
Complementing this analysis, the president of private polling firm Hinterlaces Oscar Schemel has argued that the recent price reductions and other measures which lowered the cost of living for ordinary people helped the Maduro-led government achieve greater support among the traditional social base of "Chavismo," saying that these policies against the "economic war" unleashed by the right-wing opposition "evidently reconnected Chavismo and Maduro with their followers.
"In some way the hopes of broad sections that were distanced from the government have been re-established."
The other key questions posed - and of particular relevance in terms of those of us seeking to offer international solidarity - are where Venezuela's right-wing opposition now finds itself and how it reacts in the next period.
One would have thought that the death of Hugo Chavez and the problems caused in Venezuela by the constant economic sabotage and destabilisation of the last year should have presented the opposition with one of the most favourable scenarios it's had since Chavez was first elected in 1998, yet some five million still voted "Chavista."
To put this defeat in a broader context, the right-wing opposition has lost 18 out of 19 elections in the last 14 years and, as Maduro pointed out in his speech, has now lost four elections in 14 months.
In terms of the opposition's reaction, unlike during the municipal election campaign itself, the defeat meant that its leaders did not mention the words "referendum" or "plebiscite" in their responses.
Pearson writes: "That leaves us wondering what the opposition will do now. They tried a coup in 2002 and since around 2005 they have tried a more indirect, psychological war approach ... and lost again and again, with the exception of the 2007 constitutional referendum."
Whatever tactics the right-wing opposition chooses next, the history of Venezuela in the last 15 years teaches us that the opposition is very unlikely to step back from its anti-democratic and unconstitutional attempts to destablise, and ultimately unseat, the country's progressive elected government.
So while we celebrate this result we should keep in mind the need to be vigilant and extend our solidarity even further in the period ahead.
Matt Willgress is national co-ordinator of the VSC (www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk)
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