PRESIDENT Hugo Chavez’s allies won a strong majority in Venezuela’s congress, but lost the two-thirds majority needed to carry out major changes on their own, according to election results released yesterday.
With the vast majority of votes from Sunday’s election counted, Chavez’s socialist party won at least 96 of the 165 seats in the National Assembly, while the opposition coalition won at least 61 seats, National Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena said.
Chavez’s party had held an overwhelming majority in the outgoing congress because much of the opposition boycotted the past election.
The remaining eight seats from Sunday either went to a small splinter party or had not yet been determined, she said.
The council’s initial bulletin did not mention the popular vote. Opposition parties have alleged that congressional districts are drawn to over-represent the government’s strength – an advantage Chavez will not have in the 2012 presidential vote.
Chavez hailed it as a “solid victory” in an online posting on Twitter, but he fell short of his goal of keeping the two-thirds majority that has allowed his allies to push through major changes unopposed.
Until now, pro-Chavez lawmakers have been able to rewrite laws unopposed and unilaterally appoint officials, including Supreme Court justices and members of the electoral council.
A crowd of government supporters who had gathered outside the presidential palace showed mixed emotions when Lucena announced the results. Some showed disappointment by holding their heads in their hands while others thrust their fists in the air, declaring the outcome a triumph.
Earlier, Chavez backers drove through downtown Caracas celebrating, waving party flags and honking horns. Powerful fireworks exploded above the streets, echoing throughout much of the capital.
Opposition leaders celebrated at the coalition’s headquarters in Caracas, where they hugged and kissed each other amid smiling supporters.
In the western state of Zulia, where the opposition won 12 of the 15 posts up for grabs, Governor Pablo Perez attributed the opposition’s gains to the coalition’s decision to field a single candidate for each of the 165 seats being contested.
“We showed Venezuela that we can advance if we’re united,” Perez said.
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