Contrary to most predictions, Venezuela’s marxist president, Hugo Chavez has been narrowly defeated in a referendum designed to extend his rule indefinitely.
CARACAS – Venezuelans have rejected President Hugo Chavez’s bid to win new powers and run for re-election for decades to come in an unprecedented defeat that could slow his socialist revolution in the OPEC nation.
In a fiercely contested referendum on Sunday, voters said “No” to reforms that would have scrapped term limits on Chavez’s rule, given him control over foreign currency reserves and boosted his powers to expropriate private property.
Election officials said early on Monday that the “No” camp had about 51 percent of the vote and the anti-U.S. president scored around 49 percent support.
Opposition celebrations immediately erupted throughout Caracas with caravans of activists cheering, honking horns and waving flags out of car windows.
Although he remains powerful and popular, it was Chavez’s biggest vote blow since he swept to power in a 1998 election.
He quickly conceded defeat but insisted he would “continue in the battle to build socialism“. He also said the reforms had failed “for now” and they were “still alive“, suggesting he might try again to push them through later on.