One thing that the opposition tried very hard to get early this year was unity, understanding very well that without unity chavismo would simply smother the opposition. The 2006 and 2007 numbers were clear, one on one the opposition could win a few important places, two on one it had no chance outside a dozen districts of Venezuela. All went fine, all states but two had unity, but what the opposition did not say was that unity was not achieved as widely as we thought in individual districts. True, a few people like Petkoff tried in the last weeks to ring an alarm but personal ambitions were too strong. As a consequence key places were lost that should have been won without trouble. The table below illustrates some glaring examples of how this division cost dearly to the opposition. I have added also what political movement was the responsible of the loss in a given district, but meaner than what Tal Cual did over a week ago as I was preparing this post.
Before getting into the details it is important to recall how division can play a role. Of course, division favors chavismo who has pulverized any internal divergence. But there is another perverse effect of visible division: it risks promoting abstention among the likely opposition voters. The NiNi or chavista elector considering voting for the opposition as a way to punish the administration is probably going to be out off if the opposition does not offer him or her a clear choice.
votes gathered by A and B (and C when it happened). If the result is negative
that means the united opposition would have won. If it is positive (Bolivar)
it is small enough that a more focused unity campaign
would have made up the difference.
I have illustrated the division in three scenarios: state, local, legislative. Let's start at state level since there is only one clear example (I have already extensively discussed Yaracuy where division was not the only factor). Bolivar is the pathetic example. There Primero Justicia made a deal with PODEMOS, a deal mirrored apparently in Aragua and elsewhere. Even though polls indicated that Andres Velazquez was forging ahead, PJ and PODEMOS stuck with their man and both candidates went down in flames. Unfortunately for PJ, Rojas Suarez had LESS than half the votes of Andres Velazquez. For those in the know, two weeks before the election PJ and PODEMOS knew that their man was not going to make it. For PODEMOS the guilt will not be too much since it got punished elsewhere severely but for Primero Justicia there is a lot to explain. Also Bolivar is a perfect example on how a bitter battle between the two opposition candidates probably generated rejection from the electorate and thus the sum of both men do not quite reach the PSUV number. Had unity prevailed the campaign about the very lousy governor running for reelection would have been more consequent and effective.
At municipal level there are many examples. I have already discussed Yaracuy losses of San Felipe and Independencia that touched me closely and that I blame on the arrogance of Julio Borges and Lapi. At least Lapi will pay for his arrogance as he can face now years of long exile. Borges will have to account for that if he wants PJ to grow in Yaracuy. But there was another even more pathetic example, Carabobo.
There the Salas dynasty is a mix of the Lapi arrogance and the more modernist image of PJ. Proyecto Venezuela, their party, failed there accumulating the errors of Lapi and PJ! By personal arrogance they meant that Carabobo was their due and thus they refused to make the necessary political alliances. By arrogance of thinking that they were owed a national destiny, they also refused to make the alliances that would have eased their fusion with the movements who actually had a future. The result has no appeal. Salas Feo won with less votes than what was expected although the unity was made around his own candidacy. His less than 50% victory was further damaged when most districts went Chavez and when even the legislative body went from Proyecto Venezuela control to PSUV control!!! That is right, when in 2004 Salas Feo lost, Proyecto Venezuela did manage to retain the control of the legislative assembly of the state. This time around, due to division, Proyecto Venezuela might have won the state but it lost the assembly. True, there is the unjust way into which seats are allocated, but as we can see in Carabobo #1, single districts were also lost because of division.
I have also shown some other glaring losses such as Cumana and La Cañada. There is no point in going further into all the losses, the point is made (Tal Cual counts 26, but it might reach more than 30 districts lost due to divisions, no to mention the losses at legislative level). We must observe that we are already paying a high price to that division. Let's imagine for a moment that in addition to all that the opposition won it also had got Valencia, Cumana and Bolivar. It could have got these three prizes with exactly the same number of votes it got. Do you think that Chavez would be bellowing these days his amendment if he could not brag on these three victories?
There is a powerful lesson in the districts lost by the opposition due to its division. True, a stinging defeat of Chavez in the amendment might change things a lot but it is too early to think about the consequences of an hypothetical victory. Right now the opposition MUST find a way to forge unity candidates. The opportunity comes in 2009 for the municipal delegates elections which will be held in a format similar to the state assemblies. Many ways to reach this goal are possible but that is the subject for a post by itself. But whatever way is selected, it must be thought as the one that will also be used for the legislative elections of 2010 which could bring the end of the chavista majority in the National Assembly. Because economic crisis or no crisis, if the opposition does not unify better by 2010 it will have a hard time to reach even a third of the new assembly.