Venezuela Elections Weaken Chavez's Hold

The results, if confirmed when final tallies become available, will leave Chavez without the two-thirds congressional majority he has enjoyed in recent years and which gave his government automatic approval of proposals. Both sides displayed mixed reactions to the partial results, with some declaring victory and others expressing disappointment. Chavez said his United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, had won an "ample majority." Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, a spokesman for the opposition group, said the results meant Chavez would have to negotiate on key issues. Chavez will keep an assembly majority even if his candidates lose in total votes thanks to an electoral reform law passed last year that redrew districts, giving more representation per capita in states where he has strong support. Several analysts said the vote reflected the depth of Venezuelans' dissatisfaction with Chavez, who many blame for rising crime, food shortages, frequent power outages and interruption of water service. "There have been so many things that have gone wrong in Chavez's government lately that we knew the election might go against him," said Caracas-based political consultant Maruja Tarre, who advises several multinational companies. "But they showed how high the anger is, even among poor constituents who in the past supported him." The two highest vote-getters nationwide were opposition candidates Maria Corina Machado and Enrique Mendoza. Both are longtime Chavez critics who ran in Miranda state under the Democratic Unity Table umbrella group . At a news conference in Caracas on Monday, Machado said her victory was evidence of voters' rejection of "Cuban-style communism." Both Machado and Mendoza are already being talked about as potential presidential candidates in two years. Chavez has indicated that he will run for reelection. "The elections reveal that Chavez is highly vulnerable in 2012. The deterioration in the country's security and economic situation has hit Chavez's own co