After reviewing a few aspects of the results of last Sunday it is time to write down a preliminary conclusion. Preliminary is an appropriate choice of words since the election is still going full swing as I type: the regime is refusing to acknowledge the results and in the city halls it is forced to abandon or failed to take many measures are taken, from looting of the city property to appoint "protectors". We assume that these "protectors", a poor colonial term by the way, are for those chavista voters that are not a majority in that opposition ruled district, as if the incoming mayors had any desire to install a ferocious dictatorship even if they had the means to do so. With these actions the regime does not prove it that it is not anymore democratic, that ship has long sailed. No, what the regime is proving to those who care to see is that it may not have suffered a major defeat last Sunday but it has suffered a major psychological one. In public opinion it is transforming this election into a major defeat. Victorious regimes do not need to loot city hall, to appoint protectors, to explain why they won. They just win and move on.
Yes, the opposition may not have won last Sunday but the rather silly and desperate attempt by the regime to convince its followers that chavismo won big is making look the opposition score better than expected. Yet this one has not much to brag about besides the obvious but rather slight increase in districts it now holds. Capriles attempt at making the vote a referendum on Maduro was killed by abstention, chavistas did not bother go to defend their man and opposition did not care about sinking him further. Yet the Daka effect was real, the Venezuelan voter is wretched and corruptible enough that abstention was once again stronger in the opposition than in chavismo and thus chavismo clearly wins in votes (1). Thus the paradox is that neither "leader" gets strength from that election, Maduro only gets a respite and Capriles has opened the door to challengers inside the MUD.
The opposition now has new unexpected challenges. The rise of Voluntad Popular that all feared inside the MUD has happened and already Aveledo has announced that the MUD organization has to be revisited, and that he will step down when this is done. An elegant way to state that all MUD parties have failed in their electoral goal and that now room needs to be made for Lopez and Voluntad Popular. Oh! Lopez is far from becoming the MUD leader but he is now the running challenger were Capriles fail to reinvent himself and the MUD fail to come up with a more efficient strategy. The MUD services have been good but after 3 years renewal is necessary. Capriles has been an excellent and heroic campaigner but the model he proposed together with the MUD, a populism light to pry away chavista voters, has shown its limitations last Sunday.
Chavismo should find no comfort in the temporary subduing of the MUD and possible open wounds. These will heal fast, more than ever the parties inside the MUD know that union is the only way to push out chavismo. The problem is to redefine the message and steel ourselves for the hard days of repression that are coming our way. The economic crisis coming our way should be the real concern of chavismo with the real knowledge that they do not dispose of a comfortable majority, or of a majority at all for that matter. Winning elections on false premises, and on obscene fraud, does not create a solid majority you can rely on when the proverbial shit will hit the fan.
In short, both sides have failed on the psychological shock which was the real expectations of all. The new mayors have little power in the grand scheme of things and the regime has the means to neuter what little influence the new mayors may have. No matter how symbolic the victories of Barreto, Cocchiola or Ramos were, no matter than in the end chavismo got "more" votes than the opposition, the real game ahead is the regime ability to cope with the crisis and the opposition to find new and creative ways to resist. This will be the subject of the next series of posts before this blog takes a Christmas holiday, what are the basis of the new political cycle ahead.
1) There is a controversy as to whom got what vote. I do not share the concern. If I am prepared to say that chavismo got more votes overall, and significantly more votes, and that legalized looting yielded serious profits for the regime, I think that attributing the "other" vote to one or the other side is dangerous. If they are "other" it is indeed because they do not like particularly one or the other side or, gosh, they actually voted out of local concern. That abstention was high kills ANY notion of plebiscite over Maduro or, for that matter, Capriles. Adding votes as if it were a national election is something interesting but not that meaningful. Besides, how many of the Maduro voters did so for fear? And did so lightly because, well, it was just a local election. How many were outright fraud?
Sorry for Eugenio Martinez or Miguel who reacted badly to it.