More on Dec. 4th as seen from abroad...

As we await the International Observers’ preliminary reports on the December 4th vote (due out this afternoon), we can chew on some of the foreign media coverage of the election.

There’s finally a bit of comfort for the opposition in this understatedly scathing article by Andy Webb-Vidal in the Financial Times:

Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president, on Monday awoke to hear the type of election result usually reserved for the most power-hungry of dictators: 100 per cent of the seats.

The unofficial result, from polls held on Sunday to select the composition of the single-chamber legislature, signals a victory of sorts for the militaristic, left-leaning ruler of the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter.

But critics said it was a hollow victory that left Venezuela in a twilight zone between democracy and dictatorship – and a result that would catapult the country towards Mr Chávez’s model of “21st century socialism”.

Preliminary results from the National Electoral Council (CNE), which on Monday was still calculating the final tally, showed that only 25 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in polls boycotted by opponents. A fifth of ballots cast were blank.

But the extremely influential and unmistakably antichavista Economist runs a lead paragraph straight out of Jose Vicente Rangel’s wet dreams

A FREE and fair election in which the president’s supporters win all of the seats in the legislature? It sounds more like the kind of contest Saddam Hussein used to “win” in Iraq with 99% of the vote. But on Sunday December 4th, the party of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, and groups close to him seem to have done just that, after all but one of the opposition parties pulled out of the election. Mr Chávez’s Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) won 114 seats out of 167. Allied parties took the rest.

Meanwhile, Spain’s El Pais runs a tough editorial criticizing the opposition withdrawal, but also blasting Chavez’s antidemocratic tendencies. Opening graf:

The Venezuelan Opposition has made a mistake in boycotting Sunday’s legislative elections, overwhelmingly won by partisans of president Hugo Chavez. The formidable abstention, at 75%, undoubtedly undermines the representative nature of the new, monochrome National Assembly, but it does not invalidate its decisions. The basic result of the vote is that the opposition has ceased to exist in politically organized form. The parties opposed to Chavez – promised an unmitigated defeat by the polls – have taken cover behind the scarce credibility of the voting procedure and the unmistakable pro-government bias of the electoral authorities to justify their boycott. As we await preliminary reports from the international observers, nothing right now suggests serious irregularities.