Voting Behavior in Venezuela (1958-2013) Open Access

After defeating the dictatorship of Perez-Jimenez in 1958, Venezuela consolidated a bipartisan democratic model ruled by the Constitution written in 1961 and the Puntofijo pact. In 1998, Hugo Chávez came to power by winning a presidential election and remained in power between 1998 and 2013 when he died. During his presidency, Chávez rewrote the Constitution in order to concentrate all political authority and power in the figure of the president and took control of all check-and-balance institutions including the National Assembly. He also introduced the possibility of indefinite reelections and was the first president reelected for three consecutive terms in democratic elections. Chávez won seven of eight national and decisive elections, including four presidential elections, a recall election and a referendum for a Constitution Amendment. The last one was the presidential election of 2012 that he won with 55 percent of the votes and a 10 percent point gap over the opposition leader Henrique Capriles. The purpose of this thesis is to answer the question: What variables influence voting behavior in Venezuela? In particular, I use a voting behavior model to explore how a set of political and economic variables affects the vote in Venezuela. I explore the differences between the Chávez era (1998-2013) and the era before Chávez (1958-1998). I also explore how Chávez took advantage or changed voting behavior in Venezuela to remain in office for 14 years until he died. The results of this Thesis could be particularly important for the future of Chavismo as a political movement in the absence of Chávez and the future of Venezuelan opposition with regards to future campaigns: 1) Voters look at the economic performance as a whole but depending on the moment they look at different variables. 2) Incumbency is a disadvantage for the incumbent party. On the contrary, having Chávez as candidate was an advantage. 3) Chávez was more effective managing clientelism than other presidents in the past. 4) Chavez's popularity was also more effective than concentration of power and the political changes he achieved to remain in power.

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