And thus I am starting to get back into the groove of Venezuelan politics after, oh, a 1.5 month mental recess? Now that my ranting on the 2012 reality is behind, we need to go back to the electoral coverage because no matter how weak the opposition is, we need to get rid of Chavez if we want to have any chance at improving the country. Besides, we are still better off as an opposition than the Argentina one who got a major, MAJOR trouncing yesterday, in large part due to its put-offing divisions.
Below, in no particular order, a list of the political opposition candidates as I perceive them to be this mid August (call it an Iowa straw poll if you must...). Also, I am not yet getting into discussion of the chavista camp who is in a mess as per Chavez ass cancer. We need to give them some time for their return to earth.
The front runner
I am not too sure how much of a front runner Capriles Radonski is at this point. As days pass he looks more and more like a front runner by default, meaning that the primary campaign of the opposition has still not started in earnest so he floats high by default. The bulk of the opposition electorate has other things in mind this August, from going away on vacation for those who can, to how to get enough food and entertainment for the kids for those who cannot. Personally I think less of him since he supported knee jerk PDVSA even though it is breaking international law. A future president cannot make such kind of mistakes. Also, Primero Justica, his party, seems bent in doing a neutral campaign, taking for granted the more radical opposition while trying to woo the NiNi electorate. I think it is a mistake because there is not such a thing today as a NiNi electorate (Neither chavista Neither opposition) because we all know what is at stake and have chosen camp long ago. NiNi are merely people too lazy too participate or to stand for the courage of their convictions. NiNi = sinvergüenza if you ask me.
If indeed it is true that a NiNi attracting campaign could pay off in December 2012, it might backfire badly in February where motivated and radical opposition voters will make the trip to the primaries while NiNi may stay home after all. If Capriles is withholding too much his anti Chavez punch he could get a nasty surprise on primary day....
The wannabe front runner
The case for Pablo Perez is sad. Once benefiting of a front runner status because of the simple fact that he has the most populous state vote locked, his constant delays in announcing his candidacy seem to have caused him some damage that he might not be able to repair anymore. People simply do not understand whatever is going on inside UNT and why Rosales keeps insisting in being candidate from the exile (Governor Lapi debacle in 2008 anyone?). Thus the very worst fate that can fall on a presidential candidate is falling on Pablo Perez: people are losing interest.
We are told that yes, soon, any day now, just you wait, Pablo Perez will announce. But he will start with a self imposed handicap: not only he needs to waste time to refurbish his Zulia advantage but he has gone almost off the radar in places where he was strong a couple of months ago, such as the Andes region who got tired waiting for him and have started looking at other options.
The wannabe candidate
There is at least a candidate that is doing all the required work to build a real electoral challenge and offer a real program for the country. Unfortunately we still do not know whehter he will be able to run for election. I am talking of course of Leopoldo Lopez and his "inhabilitación". And it is affecting him in the polls as he is not as high as he used to be, people losing interest in someone that may or may not run, a fate à la Jesus Perez....
But he is doing his work. He had a reasonable successful wide open election where more than a 100,000 people went to vote for the Voluntad Popular organizers (and elected him head honcho). You may think that 100K is not that great but no other party, PSUV included, has had as open elections as VP so at least these numbers are meaningful. And he is also doing real proposals such as doubling oil production. I suppose that it means he has realized that after 12 years of chavismo social peace can only be guaranteed by distributing free food with the 3 million barrels a day we supposedly produce today. Thus we must double that if we want to have some money to actually develop the country.
Unfortunately for Leopoldo Lopez his eventual run depends solely on Chavez political calculations. If chavismo thinks that allowing Lopez to run can divide the opposition, he will get the nod. If chavismo thinks that a run by Lopez could unite the country effectively behind him, then he will never be allowed to run, no matter what international court says. We must at the very least give that credit, that such considerations do not stop him, á la William of Orange.
Maybe I am a little harsh on Maria Corina Machado, but I wonder whether she means it this time around or she is positioning herself for 2018 already. Make no mistake, I think she is a good candidate, that her short stint as representative showed already her good political instincts, that her tenure at Sumate gave her enough experience to deal with chavismo in a post Chavez era. But that is not what concerns me.
First, there is that novelty feel she brings and might explain why she has climbed significantly in some polls, if we are to believe them as they already would tie her to Lopez. We have been this road before with Irene Saez in 1998, from leading in the polls to almost dead last. Certainly her name recognition should give her at the very least a 10% in any serious poll before a real campaign starts. But you need more than that to win a primary election and the three candidates above have all an electoral machinery that she lacks. True, their electoral apparatus might be rather incomplete but hers is, well, absent.
Which brings me to second, a redolence of opportunism. It seems that MCM is looking for an electoral support and thus she seems to be shopping for a political party. When I left on vacation the rumors were that AD would adopt her, which seemed to me preposterous. Now that I am back in business it seems that COPEI will do, which would be a more natural fit for her. There is even rumors that if Leopoldo Lopez is barred from running, well, VP might look into her as an option. All this is fine and dandy but rarely has opportunism won primary elections....
The cryptic wannabe
I have in mind Lara's governor Henri Falcon who is, so far, sitting it out. I think he is smart enough to have realized that getting with the opposition alright would kill his chances in both pro and anti Chavez front. But not embracing the opposition vote dooms him since the PPT alone cannot win him the opposition primaries if he were to chose to run. Besides he probably needs to spend more time defending his job in Lara as that state could be the one to decide the 2012 vote. Chavismo is working hard at unseating him before his term ends. But of all potential candidates he is probably the one that can afford the best to enter late in the race, and even skip the primary altogether if, say, Chavez were to drop off the election, a division within chavismo making him a sudden front runner.
The wannabe wannabees
I just put under this label all the other candidates, from Osvaldo Alvarez Paz to Diego Arria (who by the way was aggressed today by the barbaric governor of Cojedes, a piece of scum if any, proving that chavismo does not underestimate any candidate). As far as I can tell since my return they are not making many inroads and might actually be "sabotaged" by the MUD who thinks it has enough candidates already. Maybe, but that is OK in a way. After all, if they manage to get up to 5% in the primary they can hope to have a role in a post Chavez government and the good lord knows we can use someone like Diego Arria as foreign minister or Alvarez part as interior ministry to deal with insecurity. After a decade and a half of ideological improvisation some experienced politicians may be a breath of fresh air.