Monday, December 03, 2007


Chavez's Attempted Referendum 'Coup' Defeated

The Guardian today tells us that Hugo Chavez is 'on to a winner' with his referendum gamble. Once again- remember our 1992 election?- the curse of the exit polls strikes. The real outcome was that Chavez lost the vote 51-49% and now has at least a small portion portion of humble pie to eat as a result.

I've tended to side with those who approved of Chavez until recently; anyone who directs oil revenue away from the fat cats and towards the poor as well as resisting US foreign policy, must be, at least marginally, on the side of the angels rather than any alternative. But his proposal to extend presidential terms, enshrine socialism in the constitution and aspire to rule until 2030, was several steps too far for anyone who values democracy and suspects that a president who was once a paratrooper needs to be kept on a pretty tight leash.

His referendum was essentially an attempted coup over the constitution of his country. It is a relief that Venezuelan voters, albeit a low percentage of them, should have rejected this bid for 'presidency for life' by the Castro admiring Chavez. It was a thin margin but thankfully on the side of democracy rather than the tyranny towards which Chavez had seemed to be heading. King Juan Carlos of Spain, who recently told the garrulous president to 'shut up' in public, must be well pleased. But The Guardian's Caracas correspondent, Rory Carrol, will have learnt an important lesson about treating exit polls as no more than an indication: not the real result.

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