I did not plan to write a conclusion to the series of posts on the 2008 election I wrote this past two weeks, but a declaration of Mendoza and the events of these recent days require a conclusion which is also sort of an update. Isn't it something how news in Venezuela seem to need an update so fast?
The first post tried to show how focused Chavez would be. More than any one else in Venezuela he knows that any future political career for him past 2012 depends on a convincing victory next November. Failure to confirm once again his populist ascendant, a must for any populist, will mean that at the latest he will leave his job in January 2013.
The second post tried to imagine what would be the Chavez strategy to make sure any losses in November will be limited. Considering the stakes, we can predict that he will pull all the levers he can even if they are illegal or unethical.
It is under the light of these two considerations that we must explain the stunning reversals that Chavez has been doing these recent months. They include the revision of the new education programs, the withdrawal of the security law and yesterday abandonment of the FARC. Clearly Chavez must have seen some polls that prove to him that not only these issues were not going to give him any advantage in gaining votes, but they also will offer the opposition powerful weapons. One thing is sure: Chavez has learned from his self inflicted wound with the RCTV closing which contributed greatly in his loss last December. He will try to avoid such mistakes. In other words Chavez has discovered that this time around he will have a real opposition in front and that he will need to run a real campaign. Thus he cannot afford to be saddled with issues that satisfy his ego but bring him only problems.
The third post looked at the opposition challenge. Considering the mood of the country the political opposition has its work cut out. It must speak to the real needs of the country, that is the general inefficiency of Chavez administration. It must convince Venezuelans that it can run better cities and states than a chavista administration, going as far as proving that even if the central government sabotage local opposition holdings, these will still be able to provide better service. It must understand that the wishes for unity expressed by the opposition voters are not a caprice, that they all want first the local chavista to get out of misrepresenting them and for that they do not care who is the unity candidate as long as s/he speaks to their root concerns. The candidates must realize that if they do not understand the stakes of the country, their voters do so very much. In other words successful opposition candidate will be able to have a local vocabulary with a national grammar.
The fourth post dealt with what possible meaning the results would convey. As we have seen from Chavez actions, he is quite clear about what he needs: popular vote victory and almost all of the state houses, including Caracas and Miranda. The opposition must understand once and for all that the true meaning of the November result is not how many districts it wins, but how damaged Chavez power is, that is, comes November, it is possible that the result in a few chosen key districts might become more important than the whole result. If there is one single reason that should make the political opposition see the light it is to realize that this one did not win the 2007 referendum: it was Chavez who lost it. Chavez does understand that, which explains why he is trying to push many of the constitutional reform provisions through barely legal ways, guessing, so far wrongly, that the opposition might not be able to counter a Chinese water torture proceeding.
The fifth post finally allowed me to post my first prediction, based on recent historical trends more than anything else. I predicted that the opposition should win 7 states, that 1 was leaning seriously in its favor and that up to three more were reasonably accessible. That is , I am giving the opposition a potential of 11 states, which is for me the best result it can hope for at this writing. Well, today Enrique Mendoza sort of confirmed my analysis by declaring that the opposition should make all possible efforts to win 10 states and 190 districts. Thus Mendoza set the bar to reach, as he also stated without ambiguity that the major obstacle to reach such numbers is individuals within the political opposition that think they can run on their own as if this was just a normal election.
I think the opposition can make it provided it follows what I have described in these posts and which I did not invent: you can read similar stuff everywhere in newspapers, I am not original at all. I will just add something: the candidates for every state and every district should be decided by mid July at the latest as chavismo is now running full speed and the opposition cannot leave the field open for too long just because they cannot decide who is the unity candidate. In fact all districts that do not have their main candidate snared by the Russian list should be decided by early July, leaving the rest of July to deal with the dozen or so controversial nominations. Three weeks are left which will be closely watched by public opinion which will be very critical if it takes any longer. The result of this watch will be more decisive to stimulate the opposition voter than any silly local program candidates will be able to present after.
Opposition wanna-be candidates, you did not even read it here first.