Candidates from President Hugo Chavez’s party won seven municipalities and one state in regional polls that were the socialist leader’s first test since suffering a setback in September legislative elections, state television reported. His opponents won in four municipalities and one state.
Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, lost its two-thirds majority in September parliamentary elections after failing to win the nationwide popular vote. His party held on to 98 of 165 seats in the unicameral legislature after the government redrew electoral districts to favor rural areas where support for Chavez is strongest.
The opposition Democratic Unity Table alliance and the smaller Fatherland for Everyone party, which broke away from Chavez, were seeking to consolidate their strong showing in the legislative vote ahead of presidential elections in 2012.
In Maracaibo, capital of the oil-producing state of Zulia, the Democratic Unity candidate Evelyn Rosales won the office held by her husband, former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, who he fled to Peru in 2009 alleging political persecution by Chavez. She won 58.68 percent of the vote, defeating former Mayor Gian Carlo Di Martino, the National Electoral Council said.
Liborio Guarulla, the governor of Amazonas, won a second term on the Fatherland for Everyone ticket against the PSUV’s Edgildo Palau after winning 51.1 percent of the vote. In Guarico, the PSUV’s Luis Gallardo said he won 77 percent of the vote against the Democratic Unity’s Carlos Prosperi to replace deceased Governor William Lara, a former Chavez Information Minister who was killed in a car accident in September.
Venezuela’s economy contracted for the sixth consecutive quarter between July and September as Chavez intensified his drive to nationalize key sectors of the economy. Venezuela, whose 27.6 percent annual inflation rate is the highest among 83 countries tracked by Bloomberg, saw unemployment rise to 9 percent in October from 8.1 percent a year ago.
Heavy rains that have caused flooding and landslides may deter people from heading to the polls, Jose Vicente Carrasquero, a political analyst at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, said in a phone interview. At least 32 people have died and around 90,000 have taken refuge in government shelters, Chavez said today in his weekly column “The Lines of Chavez.”
The elections will have little bearing on the 2012 presidential vote because Venezuelans tend to vote differently in regional elections, he said.
“Everyone will try to claim an advantage,” Carrasquero said. “While this may affect the perceptions people have ahead of 2012 there are still two years to go.”