Politics of Venezuela
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Venezuela has a dominant-party system, dominated by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and with numerous parties exist. The governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV) was created in 2007, uniting a number of smaller parties supporting Hugo Chávez' Bolivarian Revolution with Chávez' Fifth Republic Movement. PSUV and its forerunners have held the Presidency and National Assembly since 1998. The Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD), created in 2008, unites much of the opposition (A New Era (UNT), Project Venezuela, Justice First, Movement for Socialism (Venezuela) and others). Hugo Chávez, the central figure of the Venezuelan political landscape since his election to the Presidency in 1998 as a political outsider, died in office in early 2013, and was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro (initially as interim President, before narrowly winning the Venezuelan presidential election, 2013).
Background to the current political landscape is the development of democracy in Venezuela during the twentieth century, in which Democratic Action (founded in 1941) and its antecedents playing an important role in the early years. Democratic Action led the government during Venezuela's first democratic period (1945–1948). After an intervening decade of dictatorship (1948–1958) saw AD excluded from power, four Venezuelan presidents came from Democratic Action from the 1960s to the 1990s. This period, known as the "Fourth Republic", is marked by the development of the 1958 Punto Fijo Pact between the major parties (originally including the Democratic Republican Union, which later dwindled in significance), with the notable exclusion of the Communist Party of Venezuela.
By the end of the 1990s, however, the now two-party system's credibility was almost nonexistent, mostly because of the corruption and poverty that Venezuelans experienced as oil wealth poured in during the 1970s and the debt crisis developed during the 1980s. Democratic Action's last president (Carlos Andrés Pérez) was impeached for corruption in 1993, and spent several years in prison as a result. The other main traditional party Copei, provided two Venezuelan presidents (Rafael Caldera, 1969-1974, and Luis Herrera Campins, 1979-1983). Confidence in the traditional parties collapsed enough that the 1993 presidential elections were won by Rafael Caldera on around 30% of the vote, representing a new electoral coalition, National Convergence. By 1998, support for Democratic Action and COPEI had fallen still further, and the 1998 election was won by political outsider Hugo Chávez.
Chávez launched what he called the "Bolivarian Revolution", and fulfilled an election promise by calling a Constituent Assembly in 1999, which drafted the new Constitution of Venezuela. Opposition attempts to unseat Chávez included the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt, Venezuelan general strike of 2002–2003, the Venezuelan recall referendum, 2004 and a last-minute boycott of the 2005 parliamentary elections. Chávez was re-elected in 2006, but narrowly failed to convince the electorate to approve a package of constitutional amendments aimed at deepening the Bolivarian Revolution, losing the 2007 constitutional referendum.
The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV) was created in 2007, uniting a number of smaller parties supporting Hugo Chávez' Bolivarian Revolution with Chávez' Fifth Republic Movement. The Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD), created in 2008, unites much of the opposition (A New Era (UNT), Project Venezuela, Justice First, Movement for Socialism (Venezuela) and others). Hugo Chávez, the central figure of the Venezuelan political landscape since his election to the Presidency in 1998 as a political outsider, died in office in early 2013, and was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro (initially as interim President, before narrowly winning the Venezuelan presidential election, 2013).
The National Assembly has twice voted to grant Chávez the ability to rule by decree in several broadly defined areas, once in 2000 and again in 2007. (This power had been granted to previous administrations as well.)
There is a history of tension between church and state in the country. The Catholic Church has accused Chavez of concentrating power in his own hands. In its 2009 Easter address to the nation, the bishops said the country's democracy was in "serious danger of collapse."
In 2009 when Caracas, the capital, elected an "opposition" mayor, the government gave control of his budget to an appointed official.
Venezuela elects at a national level the President of Venezuela as head of state and head of government, and a unicameral federal legislature. The President of Venezuela is elected for a six-year term by direct election plurality voting, and is (since the Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2009) eligible for re-election. The National Assembly (Asamblea Nacional) has 165 members (diputados), elected for five-year terms. Elections also take place at state level and local level.
Most recent elections:
- parliamentary: Venezuelan parliamentary election, 2010
- regional: Venezuelan regional elections, 2012
- presidential: Venezuelan presidential election, 2013
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- Reuters News retrieved 22 September 2009
- The Tablet, "Bishop faces down threats from ruling party." 25 April 2009, page 38
- Amnesty International USA. Abolitionist and Retentionist Countries. Retrieved 19 August 2006
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