Monday, May 22, 2006

Venezuelan electoral contradictions

We have had two local elections yesterday. Their result are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, thought very telling in illustrating the contradictions within Venezuela politics.

The Nirgua ballot

Nirgua is a pleasant municipality of Yaracuy, high in the mountains and thus very different than the rest of the state, axed on the two long tropical valleys of the Aroa and Yaracuy rivers. In fact, if state lines were drawn according to logic and geography, Nirgua would belong to Carabobo state while this one would surrender Puerto Cabello to Yaracuy.

The town by itself is rather non descript, in spite of its historical significance. It was founded before Caracas and supposedly it was from Nirgua that Diego de Losada left to establish Spaniard control over the Caracas valley, founding Caracas in 1567. The new history rewritten speedily by the glorious revolution would have us think otherwise, but I digress.

Nirgua had always a certain “left” flavor to its politics. From its mining start it got the first slave revolt we know of, with a brief “maroon” independent nation. Continuing as an agricultural area with land disputes, sharecroppers, cheap labor for orange groves, etc, it is no surprise that when democracy came to Venezuela, the leftists parties did have a say in local politics. Even in its best years, Convergencia and Lapi carried Yaracuy by large margins but failed to establish themselves permanently in Nirgua. Now that Convergencia boycotts elections the battle has become a left-left battle (1).

Chavez’s MVR party would like very much to establish itself in Nirgua and make it a stronghold. Through suspicious electoral maneuver it managed to gain town hall 4 years ago. But the mayor failed to gain reelection yesterday. The guy who unseated him made it as an “independent” supported by dissident chavismo (Tupamaros among some). He probably benefited from some Convergencia support, even though abstention was near 50%, very high for Yaracuy recent standards.

Thus, for the second time in barely 6 months dissident chavistas (but saying “Viva Chavez” anytime they can) have managed to handle the MVR a set back. Former mayor Capella, running for legislative election last December as a dissident managed to thwart the ambitions of Heredia with full support of the MVR. However from their speeches you would not have known which one of them was the most chavista.

Because this is the interesting point, there was a “left” current existing before Chavez that refuses to submit to an all Chavez all the time schedule though its vehicle, a more and more corrupt and sycophantic MVR who owes it all to Chavez. This current has established its credentials before Chavez (Tupamaros, PPT) or even during Chavez (Lina Ron) and they are not accepting graciously to follow the orders of the MVR party boss who are there because Chavez put them there and not because they made some heroic feat to deserve their rank.

A situation worth following.

The Carrizal vote

This case is much simpler and reflects more on the internal opposition demons, in particular the fake abstention of AD.

Carrizal is a mountainous outlying district of Caracas. It used to be a country side escape for weekends until it was progressively invaded by the slums growing outside of Caracas. It thus has a rather “popular” nature now, but one established long ago and which has favored an AD “tradition” of sorts. Paradoxically chavismo has not been able to prosper there as much as one would have thought.

This time we had an AD mayor running for reelection and he barely made it, but he made it. Nothing really surprising here except for the show of the Primero Justicia candidate that did not vote because he refused to use the finger printing machines. That he would probably lose even though Los Salias next door is a successfully run PJ town might have played some there.

At any rate it is interesting to observe that AD which has been vociferous since last December in the pro- “abstention” campaign has had no problem to go and vote, with all the CNE imposed loops, finger printing machines included, to retain its mayor. Granted, it is paradoxically more difficult to cheat on a local election than on a nation wide election under the current system. But still, you hold to your principled positions or you do not. Thus the ambiguity of AD is clearly demonstrated once again, letting weaker minds suspect that the lady does protest too much. It looks more like AD is refusing to count itself as long as it is not certain to win any intra opposition contest. In other words, as this blogger has written in the past, it looks that AD prefers to have Chavez in office as long as AD as not secured for itself the opposition leadership.

Other comments

The CNE has made some crass errors there. Or should I call them “provocations”? For example the “surprise” extended voting hours of recent elections were not necessary and yet more people voted than last December. How is the CNE planning to explain that?

The finger printing machines were forced in again and no paper ballot counted. Thus the CNE is setting itself for a frontal shock at some point in the near future with the opposition. Does the CNE really hope to browbeat the opposition based on just two local elections?

Finally the abstention for Carrizal was near 60%, too high for a mayor election. Thus equally chavistas and anti chavistas are staying home. Does not bode well.

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1) Convergencia boycott is the only one worth something as in 2004 Lapi was barely edged out by Gimenez demonstrating even as he lost that he does have real support in this state, even after 5 years of chavismo.

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