Speaking of Latin American democracies shooting themselves in the foot, Hugo Chavez was re-elected to the presidency of Venezuela for the third time yesterday with a solid margin of 10% of the vote in his favor. Whether there was significant fraud is not yet being discussed—Henrique Capriles made no mention of it in his concession speech—but it’s clear that Mr. Chavez having total control of most of the state’s institutions decisively helped him triumph over his young rival.The Wall Street Journal had this interesting tidbit to add:
Casting a shadow over the victory are lingering questions about Mr. Chávez’s health. He has battled cancer for much of the past two years. While he says he is cured, his government hasn’t revealed information about his condition, raising doubts among Venezuelans.If Mr. Chávez dies within the first four years of his new term, the Venezuelan constitution calls for new elections—possibly giving Mr. Capriles another shot.“[Mr. Capriles] would become the president in waiting,” said Riordan Roett, the head of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. “Chávez can’t last much longer, given his health.”
Time is on Mr. Capriles’ side, then. He’s young—only 40 years old—and would likely be the strongest candidate standing for election in the wake of Chavez’s death, which would likely sow chaos among the ranks of the Chavistas. Nevertheless, as we said on Saturday, there are plenty of Chavez’s followers who would not gladly yield power under any circumstances. The transition could be bumpy, however it plays out.