In politics even the best friends at some point feel compelled to settle scores. Thus we should not be surprised when followers ask for blood, as it is happening now from the press, through Twitter, to my competing blogs, who are all only too happy it seems to accuse the MUD of sugar coating the truth and what not. Me, a long time critic of Capriles, find myself in the need to add a post scriptum to defend him (sort of) to my conclusion entry of last Friday.
What pushes me to write is that the "provocateur" magazine Zeta has put Leopoldo Lopez on its front cover as the challenger to Capriles, while this one in an interview published today shoots low at Lopez. This combined to the hysteria caused by the numbers from Eugenio Martinez in El Universal, now final today. And even further hysteria about the newly elected mayor of San Sebastian accused to switch outright to the regime. I suggest that this is all coming from the different point of view between those who live in the reality outside of Caracas and those who live in Caracas or overseas, the traditional cultural divide exacerbated again because of the elections.
I will start with the new Mayor of San Sebastian, Carlos Miranda, allegedly going back to a chavismo that he may or may not have left years ago. My first question to his critics is: have you ever driven through San Sebastian, in the South of Aragua? I did, several times. Have you ever wondered what is the tax base of that district? Do you think that whoever is mayor of San Sebastian can survive if s/he starts a war with Tareck El-Aissami, the governor of Aragua, a corrupt, false and likely violent chavista? And the one who supposedly sends you a mandatory stipend. Carlos had no option but to play nice and offer to collaborate with the regime. His district, that I know of, has no border with any other district or state that may have an opposition governor. And he is in a state with one of the most, I repeat, talibanic and incompetent and corrupt chavista governor. Heck, Tareck does not even sleep in Maracay most night, he commutes more or less between Caracas and Maracay.
If I take this detour it is that I need to remind readers that the success of last Sunday election cannot be measured on vote number alone. Those were after all local election that Capriles tried to turn into a referendum to compensate his pusillanimity last April, and failed. Or does ANYONE truly believes that the 62.6% Carlos Miranda votes belong from now on to the MUD? In case you still do not get my point think about the score of Capriles last April in San Sebastian, 41.8%.
It is true that in the end chavismo got more votes than the opposition, maybe a million more, but the question here is how come the opposition went from 7.4 million last April to 4.4 a week ago. A drop bigger than chavismo which went down to 5.3 from 7.6. The opposition lost 3 million votes and chavismo 2.3. We may put chavismo vote on the count of fraudulent elections but we cannot account for a loss of 3 million opposition voters on the CNE. Even the vaunted Daka effect which according to some pollsters rose Maduro numbers by around 10 points cannot explain why the opposition lost 3 million votes (maybe less if we start making excruciating speculation as to what the "other" votes meant, but the loss remains huge). In fact, that chavismo did lose more than 2 million votes indicate that the Daka effect is more of an excuse to justify the 3 million drop in the opposition than a solid explanation as to why Maduro "won".
We need to be serious when we put blame on different parties.
First, the state machine was at its worst in this election and was certainly a dissuading factor for many opposition voters to go and do their civic duty: what for, since the regime will jail of neuter the eventual winners? I know it is no excuse, I went as 4+ million, but that was certainly a chunk of those who did not go, a bigger chunk than those who may have already left for vacation.
Second, it was a mistake for Capriles to make this election a referendum on Maduro. Local elections are a referendum on local issues, at best. Though it is a mistake for Maduro to claim victory because after all, with all the scandalous advantage and pressure he did fail to convince more than 2 million of his supporters to go back to the polls. I understand why Capriles and the MUD took that gamble but many were very doubtful from the start and should have been heard before making the vote a plebiscite.
Third, even if these elections were normal, historical trends in Venezuela and elsewhere make local elections a low turn out event. This demonstrates one thing: true democrats are those who vote in local elections, those who do understand their importance. Too many people it seems think that the only election worth the trouble is the one to elect our king, be this one a president or a prime minister. In Venezuela, the majority of the country is not democratic no matter what people from both sides try to make us believe. The large majority of chavismo is not democratic and a substantial portion of the opposition neither is. Together they are more than 50%. Way more maybe.
For these reasons and more one should avoid making any dramatic conclusion out of last Sunday. There are only two things that we can say.
We can say is that as a referendum the vote failed to either condemn or rescue Maduro. This one is not rescued whatsoever inside chavismo who knows very well that they lost key sectors. An authoritarian neo-.fascist movement cannot lose anything and thus the losses at Barquisimeto and Barinas are simply unacceptable and will be blamed behind closed doors on Maduro's policies. That the regime considers the election a loss is made evident by its reactions, appointing "protectors", taking away mayor functions before the new ones are sworn in, a massive propaganda onslaught, etc. You would think that chavismo lost by a million and not the other way around!
We can also say that the opposition needs to reevaluate its strategy. Clearly the selected and limited confrontation with the regime strategy has run its course and something else is necessary. That Capriles lowers himself to send a low shot at Lopez who was the artifice of his smashing victory in February 2012 primary betrays that he knows his leadership is now under question. Rather than attacking Lopez (or any other that will rear his or her head very soon) he should do a prompt self criticism and follow the chair of the MUD Aveledo in stating that it is normal for the MUD to reevaluate its priorities and that ALL (including by deduction his leadership) is open to discussion. This is common in all democracies, that a losing candidate must subject to new primaries or party conventions, which in no way would distract from the historical contribution that Capriles made to the opposition cause by giving back its confidence that it was again a power option.
I am in deep disagreement with many of the criticism that I read against Capriles and the MUD. I think in large part they come from either a misunderstanding of the true situation of the country or a personal agenda (for example those promoting abstention, who have yet to offer something, anything and are thus trying to find an excuse for their cowardice). True, I am disappointed, but it is also true that I am able to see that this alleged defeat is an excellent stepping stone if the opposition decides to reevaluate its strategy. With 4 elections in 14 months there is a wealth of electoral data and polls and experiences to be digested and put to profit, with bright success like forcing the regime to steal the election last April to truly dismal reactions last December, of much worse consequences if you ask me than the set back of last Sunday.
Capriles and the MUD, even if I did not agree with their strategy, have had the merit to stick to it and see it through until the bitter end. And that is worthy of respect. Now, we move on without blaming them more than necessary, and thanking them more than necessary if we must. At least they did stick their neck out for us.