So tomorrow we vote. And what will happen next?
First, a mea culpa of sorts. Until 2-3 weeks ago I still thought that the regime was going to find a way to suspend the election. It did not (well, it still has about 8 hours left). From this we can conclude that the regime is so aware of its defeat, and so aware that there is no way to recover part of the lost ground in a short time, that it decided to go ahead anyway and see what happens next. For me, that there are elections, is paradoxically a way for the regime to recognize in advance that they lost and cannot turn around the result in a "good and timely manner".
Tomorrow they certainly will do their utmost to gain votes even by forcing people to vote, even by carrying busloads of people at 10 PM to vote, etc... After all they even jailed the head of Sucre district police and keep the police in their barracks so the colectivos of Sucre will have a free reign of terror to "bring in the vote". Yet, no matter what, these last minute despair tactics will be limited in scope (the world is watching) and they cannot change the fundamental event of the election: the power shift, the end of chavismo grip over the collective imaginary.
What happens tomorrow and Monday I have written about. Now as a responsible blogger I should pen down what I think may happen in the next weeks.
There are lots of OpEd around, speculating on what legally the new assembly can do whether the opposition MUD gains a simple majority or a supernumerary 2/3 majority. Other people already discuss the agreements that the regime and the opposition will have to reach. There is even talk of civility and Harina P.A.N. returning to our every day lives and shelves. I am not going to enter these discussions since even Monday morning, results in hand, it will be dangerous to speculate.
The reason that I do not want to partake in the guessing game is that we are not dealing here with a normal democratic regime which has become, shall we say, a little tense over the last decades. The regime has reduced itself to a gang of thugs and narco traffickers and with such people you cannot discuss, you cannot make an agreement. They eliminate you or you eliminate them first. This is the logic of street gangs. Force. Period.
For a speculation to make any sense it should start with the basic effect that the result will have over the inner divisions of chavismo. This movement can be divided roughly in three, for the purposes of this discussion.
One group has it all on line and will fight for its survival until the end. I am talking of course of the higher up in the regime which has dabbled in phenomenal corruption and, apparently, also ALL in drug trafficking now that we know that first lady Cilia Flores nephews are into DEA custody. This group that includes Cabello and Maduro are willing to go to the deep end.
The second group is the wavering one. Those did benefit from the regime but neither to the extremes of the first group, or not as much as they would have liked to. The point for that group is that many do not feel the need to immolate themselves for the sake of the first group.
The last group is formed by the "transactional" chavistas (public employees, mision beneficiaries). As long as their livelihood is not unduly threatened they will be unwilling to immolate themselves, the more so that the regime has proven himself unable to sustain its financial support. We could add a fourth group, the ideological one, but I think it will spread across the three groups, the more so that part of that radical group does not like Maduro or Cabello.
Now, what will truly happen depends on how these groups will individually react to tomorrow's result. That is the key at to what changes may be possible. We could see either a speedy downfall of the regime or an attempt at outright repression. But "negotiations" for a transition will only be made possible if chavismo finally divides publicly with an important faction deciding to seat down and talk with the opposition.
What can bring this about? Not the actual number of seats in the Assembly. After all, with the control exerted over all the branches of power the regime has many ways to limit the reach of the new assembly even if that one gets the magical 2/3 supernumerary. No, what will really affect chavismo is its actual vote, and how far from the opposition it will be. And this nuanced to some specific local results.
For example a 10% vote difference may still allow for a certain cohesion within chavismo. However if in spite of a that rather good result for chavismo we have some noted figures bite the dust anyway, like radical evil Jaua in Miranda, then all demons may get loose. Or if you prefer, the MUD wins by 15% but Jaua survives and chavismo retains a majority in ten states then the impact is not that bad and chavismo may want to try arm twisting for size.
Finally if the opposition manages a 20% spread, even if it does not get the 2/3 majority, chavismo will simply implode.
A final note before concluding this entry. Do not forget that the MUD is an electoral alliance and that inside it there are groups only too willing to make deals with chavismo, like the representatives that will be elected under the Lara governor wing, Falcon. Or even Ramos Allup needing to protect some of his relatives involved in juicy bolibourgeois deals. The MUD is not an alliance of saints. The MUD is an alliance of people forced to do so if they do not want to be politically annihilated. For the MUD to keep its resolve, to remain united to forge ahead with the displacement of the regime, it needs at the very least a 20% victory margin over the PSUV.
So there you are. Do not read too much into tea leaves or constitutional manuals. What comes next is the browbeating of a gang of thugs with as little as possible of collateral damage.