Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Venezuelan election of 2006: did chavismo win the jackpot?

The answer is no, because it already had won it when it shoved through the National Assembly the new Judicial system. Everything else has come from that servile judiciary who has closed its eyes in front of all sorts of abuses and constitutional violations: the Recall Election irregularities, the 2004 sweep of state houses, the 2005 100% of the National Assembly, etc, etc… In other words, Chavez is not getting any more power from Sunday, except perhaps more leeway in shutting up some media to terrorize the others and the possibility of removing the last little bits of local power that the opposition might still hold. The question for him is very simple: will he become a bona fide autocrat or will he try to retain a slight veneer of democracy?

Strength in numbers?

Well, Chavez got more than 60% of the cast votes. However what chavismo is trying very hard to push under the table is the infamous “10 millones por el buche”. In fact he did not even reached the 8 millions that Ameliach, the Chavez campaign manager, had already conceded to the press as the lower goal. It must be sort of a damper to Chavez joy that with all the state apparatus at his service, all the money he gave away to buy votes, all the undue pressures to state employees and their relatives, he still does not manage to get 50% of the electorate to go and vote for him. Not that it will perturb his political designs: even if he had won by a single vote he would still forge ahead, but his personal ego must have suffered some. We saw some of that in his press conference, a rare delicacy he allows us to witness only in special circumstances. He did not look that happy camper that won an astounding mandate.

Let’s review once more the implications of the score of Chavez. We can safely say that it is a plateau. It is difficult to conceive that Chavez will improve his score of Sunday. After all the economy is bound to slow down at some point, real jobs are not going to be created as long as Chavez does not allow more freedom and security for the private sector: historically it is established that the state can only go so far in creating jobs and managing production, and with the incompetence that has already characterized the Chavez administration we need not worry about that paradigm to change. In addition the constant increase in public spending will eventually outgrow the oil revenue, taxation can only increase so much in Venezuela as business is already plagued by a considerable increase in cost of doing business, from corruption to a bevy of new regulations going through a ruined and overburdened road network. In fact Venezuela’s economy is very fragile, based more than ever of commercial redistribution of extraordinary oil income. Chavez had the reelection at the best moment of his career: never will he get again such a golden period of large and disposable income.

Now, that does not mean he is about to lose the next election: he can afford to lose 7-10% of his electorate and still win handsomely any election. It is also a fact that he is safe from any Recall Election drive. Not that one would happen as the Tascon list made sure that no one from the opposition will ever ask again for a Recall Election through a signature: this #72 constitutional article might as well be erased from the constitution. But the fact is that after such a victory Chavez can even forget about his promise (unconstitutional by the way) to call himself for a Recall Election: there is no way he can lose it since it would require more votes than what he got Sunday to quick him out. But in six years from now he will need to campaign a little harder than he did this time, it will not be as easy (unless, of course, democracy is buried six feet deep).

The future of non-Chavez chavismo

The result have shown how paltry are Chavez allies. If he wants he can simply send them packing, call for a new National Assembly election and he would still get an MVR solid majority without much trouble.

The PPT never brought much votes for Chavez. It had an overblown role in the government because it was the only leftist group that had some administrative skill, albeit limited. Thus the PPT has come across popular imagery as a powerful party because of its patronage power from holding such important posts as PDVSA or education minsitry. But now that the numbers are in, it is doubtful that Chavez will be as lenient as he was to the PPT. Also their only governor, Manuitt, cannot run again.

PODEMOS (aptly nicknamed Pedimos, we demand) is the most pitiful of the lot even though it is the one that got closest to 7% of the vote. With the departure of Didalco Bolivar from Aragua and Ramon Martinez from Sucre in two years form now, Podemos is headed for the dustbin of history. From the start this division of the MAS brought to Podemos the scum of the MAS. And it has behaved as such since them, making people like Iris Varela look good in comparison.

Let’s not even discuss long the other new non entities: Lina Ron hordes failed in getting 1% of the vote even though sometimes they had more flags in chavista rallies than the MVR. The Tupamaros are lost in the distance (0,97% in their 23 de Enero bastion!). No one else matters, the MVR is the giant that swallows all of them. Their only option is to negotiate some form of entry inside the MVR: perhaps a town hall payoff? some representatives in the next parliament? The fact of the matter is that the MVR does not need them anymore and as it is well known that beggars cannot be choosers. In fact the one party system behind Chavez is already in place, there is only a need to write the official document.

Or will they dare to stick for their ideas and risk a break up with Chavez? Naah! Too much money is at stake.

1 comment:

  1. 5 years since you wrote this text, and the only thing you missed was the fact that PPT and Podemos actually broke up with the guy.


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