How will Chavez decree rule impact Venezuela?

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo  Chavez is taking decree powers for a year in a move he says is  needed to deal with disastrous floods but opponents denounce as  a calculated blow to democracy.

What are the possible consequences for South America’s  biggest oil producer and its flamboyant socialist leader two  years ahead of the next presidential election?  
 Here are possible scenarios:
 * By asking the compliant outgoing National Assembly for an  “Enabling Law” providing decree powers, Chavez has given  himself free rein to push through legislation to entrench his  self-styled “21st century socialism” revolution on all fronts. 
 * In the wake of floods that left about 140,000 people  homeless, he will probably extend his nationalization policies  by seizing more land for housing. The decree powers also give  Chavez a chance to take any painful economic measures now, then  ease up and court popularity ahead of the December 2012 vote. 
 * He can also ensure passage of long-cherished plans to  change Venezuela’s political structures, including increasing  the power and funding of local grass-roots structures that are  loyal to him and support his radical agenda.  

 * Most importantly, he is able to bypass the new National  Assembly that convenes on Jan. 5 and marginalize opposition  parties he despises. Having won 40 percent of seats at a  parliamentary election last September, they were feeling  rejuvenated and licking their lips at a chance to start putting  a brake on Chavez’s power and legislative program beginning  next month. Now they have to rethink their strategy entirely as  the president has made the Assembly effectively redundant.  

 * If all goes to plan for Chavez, the concentration of  power will enable him to rule and spend in such a way as to  guarantee a win in the 2012 presidential election. Although the  elections in September showed the country politically split  down the middle between “Chavistas” and the opposition, there  is still no single national rival anywhere near his poll  figures.
 * Some analysts have spoken of a possible constitutional  crisis in Venezuela, and there could be expectations of mass  protests against Chavez as seen in the past — but these would  appear to be a least likely scenario. 
 * The timing of the decree powers, extending well into a  new parliament that will have a greater number of opposition  members, is highly provocative and goes against the spirit of  the September vote. But Chavez is well within his legal rights  to ask the current National Assembly for an “Enabling Law,” and  has done it three times before since taking power in 1999. 
 * He has cleverly made his move right before Christmas,  when Venezuelans take long holidays and flock to the country’s  Caribbean beaches. That means the opposition would have trouble  rallying massive protests even if they wanted to.
 * Chavez has also cast the measure as a response to an  emergency, meaning anyone opposing it can be called heartless.  
 * There is, however, widespread fury at the measure among  his opponents, and there have already been some small-scale  protests and skirmishes outside the National Assembly.

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