Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Chavismo Wins, Venezuela Loses

by Mary Anastasia O'Grady

Wall Street Journal
October 8, 2012

It was around 9 p.m. in Caracas on Sunday when opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski tweeted his followers: "Calm, prudence, patience. Today was a great historic day. The people spoke. We know what happened and we must wait. Viva Venezuela."

He was partly right. The 40-year-old governor of the state of Miranda had unified and energized Venezuelan democrats opposed to strongman Hugo Chávez like no one else during the 14 years of chavismo. Election turnout reportedly exceeded 80%. But an hour later, the National Electoral Council announced that early returns showed that Mr. Chávez had won the contest 54% to 45%. (The spread later widened to about 11 points.) Mr. Capriles conceded.

The opposition was stunned, and not only because internal polling by the Capriles side had predicted it would win by three to four percentage points. What really shocked the country's advocates for change was the idea that more than half the voters could have asked for six more years of life under Mr. Chávez.

It had been reasonable to suppose otherwise, despite the fact that Mr. Chávez had seized control of television and radio stations and used them during the campaign to inundate the public with his message.