Chavez, coming back from his "reconciliation" with the the King of Spain, must be feeling like royalty (1). In his Alo Presidente today he sent his allies, PPT, PCV and UPV packing. He served them with an ultimatum: either they accept the candidates he wants for November or they can go their way. He promised them that they if they do not accept the crumbs he is offering them, they will disappear from the political map. And least you think it was just an electoral maneuver or a temporary lapse of judgment from his part he added: The bottom line is that there is something they do not recognize; the leaders of these political parties do not recognize me as their leader, there is the problem (...) they are never going to say it, but deep inside they are not with Chavez, they are not (...) talk privately with then and you'll see.
I do not know about you but as a compendium of arrogance and narcissism these words must set a new record, third person included....
Now, in all fairness, there is some strategy behind this move. Besides assuaging his ego, always the first priority for Chaevz, if you think that the opposition is going to beat you up, giving up on your natural allies can paradoxically help you. Let me explain.
These three small parties indeed have a certain following. Nothing big of course, but enough for them to demand more than crumbs. By giving up on them, arithmetically chavismo risks to lose a few more states and town halls than what it is assumed it will lose. Namely Caracas Libertador district, maybe Guarico, maybe another state and a couple dozen of town halls. At most.
On the other hand the PSUV keeps 90% of what it was going to get, anyway. The beauty of it is that Chavez can blame these small groups as traitors and thus pass the loss on them. Best of all, it frees Chavez from any dissenting voice within his camp (or so he hopes as inside the PSUV things are murkier than what Chavez would like us to believe).
There is yet another possible advantage. The December 2007 loss was due to a massive abstention of folks that until then supported Chavez but then stayed home. The future electoral behavior of these folks is of great concern for Chavez. Indubitably some of them will go and vote for the opposition. But if he trashes PPT et al, some of these will prefer to vote for these small parties rather than for the opposition. It is impossible to quantify that accurately, of course, but it is certain that many disgruntled chavistas will only vote for the opposition as a one time sanction vote. With this break up they can cast a more palatable sanction vote supporting, say, Lina Ron. If it happens, then in fact the PSUV could get less votes but a better chance to keep places like Libertador and even Caracas at large.
I personally do not think that this last strategy will work. Or marginally at best. These elections loom once again as out of the norm of a democratic election, as much from the CNE treachery as from the true motivations of the electors. And let's not forget that at the same time Chavez has decided to start spreading money around (2). The risk of this new expenses is that with an already high inflation chavismo risks speeding up the inflation in the next three months while at the same time an increase in liquidity will cause a new rise in the scarcity index. The food items that were missing early this year have been partially supplied through expensive massive imports and neo-liberal liquidity restrictions. It worked though it totally failed to control inflation. But polls being what they are we see clear signs that Chavez will go back to the true and tried method of vote buying, albeit with less money than before and more expensive voters. True, they tried to control spending as much as they could but they are starting again: will inflation and scarcity be high enough again in November to cost Chavez a major defeat?
We'll see how that works for him this time around.
1) He had the gall to say that the "porque no te callas" was overrated.... And with that his supporters will be happy, AND quiet. I love it!
2) Apparently this time the government is not even bothering with "misiones", going directly to cash grants for vote (just as AD used to do in the good old days).
PS: there is a quick final survey up, and plenty of you this time seem to have missed it. It is about how much you like to be surveyed. Click Here to take survey
On weekends I try to do a little bit of news hygiene, that is, I limit myself to newspapers and maybe a little bit of Internet news. If I feel an urge for TV news I tend to watch international news, to make sure Chavez does not appear in my face. Thus I missed the other big story of yesterday, Chavez chastising his very own VTV workers for making too much money, according to him. Miguel apparently does watch TV more than I do. But that is OK, because if I missed this precious anti revolutionary moment of Chavez, it allowed me to focus on the more important one long term, as he kicks out his last "allies".
Whatever. Yesterday gave us two terrific examples on how out of touch with reality Chavez is growing, how he is devoured by his self sufficiency. How long will he last as such?