Sunday, May 21, 2006

Solving the abstention puzzle.

One of the political analysts in Venezuela that I like to read is Fausto Mazo, whose column appears every Saturday in El Nacional (by subscription). This Saturday Mazo was writing that the opposition was concentrating its forces in continuously criticizing and making assumptions about the CNE rather than campaigning on the many issues that can be damageable to Chavez. He said that the CNE will be the end of the opposition because instead of campaigning and proposing a program (which is exactly what our distinguished blogger Daniel has been stating), the opposition leaders are too busy appearing on TV and rediscovering that Tibisay Lucena was indeed a chavista. ..And, meanwhile, Chavez has no one criticizing and campaigning against his government.

Mazo points out that Chavez has two fears: that the opposition will vote massively and that the opposition will abstain. He says that Chavez is more afraid of the former than the latter. In fact, even though abstention could be seen as a gain for some oppositionists and a show of lack of legitimacy, the abstention will not be an issue outside Venezuela and Chavez will have all the legitimacy that he is used to have in the eyes of the international community. On the other hand, there is nothing more damageable for Chavez than having masses of opposition voters voting on December.

I agree with Mazo’s analysis. Abstention gets us nowhere, quite the opposite. Moreover, I may add, if the government has the temptation to cheat, a massive participation will make it much more difficult.

But yet, while reading the article, the skeptic in me was asking: how can we accept going to an election without counting all the ballots? How can we accept the conditions that are being imposed by the government driven CNE?

Amazingly, I got the answer by reading one of Roberto Smith’s suggestions. I disagree with many of the things that Smith claim but this one I found brilliant. Smith essentially said that he does not care about the bias of the CNE because the Venezuelan people will be the ones to make the CNE count those ballots.

Roberto, I think that you gave us the solution to the abstention puzzle.

Think about it. There is massive participation. There are international observers everywhere and there is people, you and me and our neighbours, outside our voting station screaming that all the ballots must be counted. What would the government do? Shut the people in front of international observers? Refuse to open the boxes in front of the world cameras?

That would be the real revolution of the Venezuelan people that want to regain their right to vote.

Of course that is possible only if there is a massive participation in the elections and if the abstention inercy is beaten.

I think that is the way to go because with abstention, the sure winner is Hugo Chavez.

Jorge Arena

Distinguished Ghost

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