Assuming that the constitutional change were worth discussing, with the current electoral system there is no way that fair debate will be held, that appropriate information will be disseminated, that the people will have a chance to understand what is really at stake. Just as it was the case for the presidential election of last year, the might of the state will be used obscenely to crush any feeble counter campaign that the opposition might want to do.
That is, with a huge majority of the media in the hands of Chavez, with the numerous cadenas to crush the minority opposition media, with provincial newspapers mostly neutral to pro Chavez these days (just to be able to survive), with all the public offices draped in red and public employees wearing red outfits, with the permanent blackmail that forces you to espouse Chavez least the meager stipend your life depends is lost, the YES vote is almost guaranteed without recurring to direct electoral fraud. For those late in this game, electoral fraud in Venezuela now starts well before the first ballot is cast.
But why people would vote anything else than what Chavez wants them to vote? It is fair to say that a third of Venezuela, if they vote, would vote for Chavez no matter what. Their reasons are varied. They might still want to vote for Chavez just to “punish” the other side. They might be believers. They just got used to Chavez. They are scared of change. There is nothing at stake for them anyway.
This last one deserves some more details. People whop live in the slums, what do they care about the geographical redistribution of the country? People that are out of a job, what do they care if the work week is 44 hours, 40 or 36? People who live in crime infested neighborhoods, what do they care whether Chavez wants to change the army in a militia? People who have never seen the benefits of democracy, people who actually might have never even voted for Chavez, why would they go out to vote against a constitutional proposal that holds no meaning to them?
The only question here is when will the vote held and what will be the victory margin, a margin that we know will be arranged by the CNE according to the political needs of Chavez at the moment.
For those who think that I exaggerate let me remind a few FACTS:
The CNE is controlled by a 4 to 0 pro Chavez majority. The lone dissenter has no weight, and forces no issue. Not 4 to 1, it is 4 to 0.
The CNE is sold out to chavismo, as its directors have no qualms in voicing support for some of chavismo political positions, such as Janeth Hernandez saying that the sanction against Ramirez was unfair. That is, when Ramirez was shown red handed violating all sorts of constitutional and electoral directives, one of the CNE directors finds nothing wrong with it. Is anyone expecting that this CNE will make sure a fair electoral campaign will be held from here until December? Of course not. A dirty campaign will spare the CNE the need to rig elections. A rigging that they might do anyway because simply Chavez NEEDS more votes than last December. He always needs to get more votes than the last time, it is essential to his image, to his projection as a continental leader. It is essential to his narcissistic pathology.
The data transmission will be completely controlled by the government now that the Chavez administration has nationalized CANTV. In other words there will be no way to figure out if electronic voting fraud is being held since not only observers will be probably barred from observing CANTV workings, but now that they have control of the business there is nothing to stop chavismo to create a parallel transmission system without anyone being the wiser for it.
In fact, on a practical point of view, the way elections are held in Venezuela it is very legitimate to discuss whether it is worth voting or not. People, pro or anti Chavez in fact have a tacit agreement on this subject. If you look at the recent recall election drive failure it is obvious that people have lost all trust in the CNE, and know very well that elections do not matter anyway in an authoritarian regime. So, why bother to campaign one way or the other when you know that Chavez will do as he pleases anyway, no matter what you do?
Does this all mean that the opposition should throw the towel and stay home? No, but it will require extraordinary political will. And it will require the reader to wait for the part five of this series.
Note: this is part 4, after part 1, 2 and 3. And this entry.