Sunday, September 18, 2005

Electoral disarray in Venezuela

Today is the dead line to register the nomination for the National Assembly elections of December 2005. Chavismo has filed up its candidates and the opposition is trying very hard to complete the job today. All would seem somehow normal, but this being the bolibanana republic, you would be far from the truth assuming such a thing.

Chavismo candidates

As expected it is a large list of mediocrities whose main criteria for selection is that they are not thought to defect in the next five years. The defections that happened in 2001 to 2003 cutting a comfortable majority of 2/3 to a bare one which had to use illegal ways to impose many crucial laws is not something that El Supremo is willing to put with once again. Thus apparently he made sure that his orders were followed and made sure that there would not even be internal primaries, going against the laws of "popular participation". But I suppose that El Supremo is the embodiment of the "popular" so he gets to decide.

Thus El Supremo decided that 27 present seat holders would not run again. That is right, they served Chavez with servility for 5 years except for an occasional ember of self criteria. That was enough to have them crossed from the list. The new revolutionary parliament is expected to vote promptly as ordered from Miraflores palace. The socialism ideal of the XXI century looks everyday more and more than the XX century tired version.

Any surprise there? Actually yes. As far as I can tell the amount of military candidates does not seem as large as once it was thought. Then again I have not found a complete CV on the candidates. Since they are named for loyalty, I suppose that there is no need to publish their CV.

The bigger surprise came from Lina Ron not been nominated. Nor some left wing allies such as the Tupamaros. As of today it is still not clear whether they will form a dissident alliance among themselves and run as they did in August when chavismo ejected them. A rather messy primary process which did not always gave the results expected by the chavismo nomenklatura resulted in them kicked out of the lists. But one thing is certain, their exclusion cannot help chavismo, not to mention that it illustrates the lip service that chavismo pays to democracy.

Opposition candidates

Well, it is quite messy. But the opposition is certainly more democratic that chavismo who accepts the word of the leader without major contestation. Then again chavistas know that after 7 years they are more dependent on Chavez coattails than ever!!!! So the opposition has miserably been threading along this past month. But some positive results can be hoped for, even if they are rather meager.

As of yesterday it seemed that many of the "old" leaders would not run for parliament. Probably sensing that the people were not going to vote for them, folks like Ramos Allup have decided to run for the Andean Parliament, a basically ceremonial post and an end of career, not too dishonorable considering all the leadership mistakes that he should be punished for. Other have simply announced that they will not run again.

I am not too sure yet of what the new faces will be. There has been a lot of talk as to nominating political prisoners, dissident generals and even Carlos Ortega now in jail. The ex-CTV leader and the "paro/strike" of 2002/2003 main spokesperson might actually become much more of a hindrance for the opposition. For the lower classes unfortunately the memory goes much more to the cooking gas lines and food shortages that took place during these days than to the chavismo abuses of the time. A referendum on February 2003 would have seen Chavez out, but two years of misiones and they forgot all about it, just remembering the bad of these days. After all, when you are hungry, destitute and hopeless for an improvement of your personal situation, democracy is a very vague concept whereas a small mision check is, well, a bird in hand. This blogger is certainly not going to blame them: Ortega might have been right in accepting the long strike, but he did not managed it well and he should pay the political price even if he is already in jail. After all he was caught in a casino, not on a barricade! I have a hard time feeling sorry for him: he is not a hero and his candidature can only favor chavismo. Politics is a hard game and if you want one of the top prizes, you must pay your dues.

Still, the opposition found some local problems, ranging from local ambitions and the inability of AD to let go of its pretensions, to simply the forfeit announced by some local leaders. AD, dreaming of days past that shall never come back for them, still tried to force the issue in states where it did very poorly in the last two elections, such as Lara and Anzoategui. At the local level three states are left leaderless by the opposition: in Carabobo Proyecto Venezuela is not running; in Yaracuy Convergencia has also announced that it would not run since the electoral situation does not allow for a fair election; in Cojedes apparently they cannot find anyone willing to run against the Yanez Rangel mafia, admittedly a dangerous group that has had no problem in invading farms, burning down independent press etc…

We will see which is the final list that supposedly should be announced today before we can make a final opinion on how renewed the opposition might be, how much of an electoral alliance is there and what are its reasonable chances to get at least 1/3 of the assembly.

The reality

But no matter what, there is an issue that has not been solved: the CNE partiality. No matter how great the opposition list is, it might have to decide at the last minute to withdraw all its candidates if the CNE does not clean up its act some. If the electoral coalition does not show some spine on this matter, the disgruntled electorate might annihilate that nascent leadership by staying home as it did in October 2004 and August 2005. The next two months would be big test for these people to show that they can do something against the authoritarianism of Chavez. If they do not motivate the opposition electorate, a real 40% and perhaps much more, they will not even get 10% of the seats, those that Chavez will order the CNE to give them so as to wear his democracy fig leaf.

Important note that on purpose I do not include in the text

The list top be presented today is not a united opposition. It is simply an electoral front where all tendencies are represented in order to avoid a massive and unfair chavismo victory in December. One cannot expect a comprehensive program from such a front, nor is chavismo offering a program itself except for more power to Chavez and more unaffordable social programs. Here, the only issue at stake is whether Venezuela will accept to submit itself once and for all to the dictatorial tendency of Chavez or if a group of people will decide to fight back and stop the decline of democracy. The December election and its campaign must be seen under this magnifying glass.


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