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Venezuelan President's Allies Win Majority


On the Monday before Thanksgiving, it's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez was not on the ballot in a series of state and local elections, but he is casting the results as a judgment on his rule because Chavez's allies won a clear majority in those elections. NPR's Juan Forero reports from Caracas, Venezuela.

(Soundbite of crowd)


JUAN FORERO: Polls were packed as voter participation reached 65 percent, and it wasn't hard to see why. President Chavez said a defeat could mean the end of his populous movement. The opposition saw it as a chance to chip away at Chavez's near iron-clad hold on power. Juan Francisco Balbi(ph) was among opponents of Chavez who voted.

Mr. JUAN FRANCISCO BALBI (Chavez Opponent, Venezuela): I hold the view that absolute power corrupts absolutely. And I believe that that is one of the main problems this administration has had, a lack of opposition in the different levels of power.

FORERO: In 10 years in office, Chavez has amassed considerable power. He controls the Congress, the Supreme Court, and virtually all state institutions. Until now, the opposition controlled just two states. The president's allies won 17 states this time around, but the opposition won three, and also took the mayor's seat for greater Caracas, a key win. The vote in two other states and several big cities has yet to be announced.

(Soundbite of traffic)

FORERO: In one crowded Caracas slum, people waited in long lines to vote. Their concerns are high crime and city services, and results from the vote showed they went for opposition candidates. Marcos Gonzales was among those looking for a new leadership.


Mr. MARCOS GONZALES (Caracas, Venezuela): (Spanish spoken)

FORERO: He says he voted for a leader who'd come in and change things. The president, though, sounded triumphant after the vote. The unanswered question is whether Chavez still has the political leverage to seek to extend his term beyond 2013. Juan Forero, NPR News, Caracas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.