Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The 2010 Venezuelan votes: Introduction

Apparently Chavez has already launched his campaign for next year legislative elections. Mind you, they are due in MORE than one year but Chavez is already going gung-ho on the campaign trail starting with a totally unjustifiable cadena of nearly 6 hours this Sunday to inaugurate a long built heath center in Caucagua and to rant against students that mooned him at their last rally. Boy, do they know how to get on Chavez case! He is so predictable, so vain that he cannot take upon himself to ignore that event and ends up giving it maximum coverage by being a cry baby about it.

This is not a good way to start a campaign, not the way he has got people used to, the invincible leader. But I suspect that negative polls been what they are, money to buy votes not being as plentiful as in the past, the sooner he starts the better for him, he must think.

Not that things look much brighter for the opposition as usual. More than ever it is ABSOLUTELY clear that without a single list of candidates they are not going to win. As I will explain in subsequent posts, I think that it is not enough for the opposition to get 50% + 1 of the ballots. It probably will need at least 55% not only to ensure that it does get 50% + 1 at the Nazional Assembly to make it National again, but also that high a vote to force Chavez to acknowledge the victory. That is, anything less than a 10% margin of victory will allow chavismo to do all sorts of maneuvers to erase it. Today they are desperate enough that outright frontal cheating is a clear possibility and only by making that one too big to hide properly can we force them to relinquish control of the Nazional Assembly and perhaps start the road to the end of the regime in a peaceful way.

For this the opposition needs a clear message, a way to select its candidates in a unitary way that not only keeps sympathizers motivated but also avoid devastating internal struggles which will make an eventual "unity" a work of fiction, and of course more than ever a TOTAL presence at the polling stations to record the fraud that this time is all but a sure thing. Unfortunately so far it does not look like it is happening for reasons that I fail to comprehend except if I look inside the vanity of some of the opposition leaders, in particular blank shooting of Borges, bitter Rosales, sillily ambitious Leopoldo and mummy like Allup. It is not too late yet but if by December 31 the opposition has not put together a basic message and a mechanism of candidate selection, we can all go home and forget about it.

There are two national elections next year, the Nazional Assembly by December and normally at least 3 months earlier the town councils elections. Plus some local essential ones of which Maracaibo mayor is at the top. I bet you Maracaibo mayor is first and that Chavez will gamble it all on that one. The candidate is irrelevant for chavismo, Chavez will be there every week end.

Depending on the Maracaibo result then Chavez will decide whether separate the other two elections and by how many weeks. If he wins Maracaibo he will try to put both council and Assembly together as early as October on any excuse. If he loses it, he will probably go through the council ones ASAP to take his losses there (August? when the opposition is on vacation) and put all of his money and time in a blitzkrieg two months campaign in October-November to at least ensure a thin majority at the Assembly in a December vote: it might not be a rubber stamp anymore but it will be unable to control anything. Chavez will just have to weather it until 2012 when he can do something about it again after he gets reelected, maybe.

In a way chavismo does not have it so easy either. If it counts on Chavez, a formidable campaigner even if showing some wear, the PSUV is still not a very good electoral machine on its own without Chavez direct fuel input. In addition next February Chavez will reach 11 years in office and well, 11 years is a lot even for successful government. Ask Thatcher about it... To this you can add that crime, ineptitude, corruption and inflation are not going to go down in any noticeable way, more likely getting worse. Still, the power of the purse and a tireless campaigner who still command irrational affection are still two powerful weapons. Unless the opposition puts its act together.

Thus in the next couple of weeks I will need to write about:

- what kind of political message the opposition can cobble up (it is amazingly simpler than what you think which baffles me that they still are discussing it!)

- how the electoral system is stacked against the opposition thus requiring extreme vigilance, dedication and organization to counter it (the final answer it to have witnesses and support at EVERY polling station, no excuses)

- how the opposition should select its candidates (note: I am not for an all out primary, it would be a disaster though it is a must that at least half of the candidates are selected through some form of primary, but this can only be understood once you understand the fine print of the modified electoral system).

- but no predictions, at least not a single one until June 2010 regardless of what polls might say.

-The end-

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