Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A most undemocratic moment: a National Assembly passes the relay stick

There is so much wrong going on tomorrow National Assembly installation that one does not know where to begin with.  We are leaving a Nazional Assembly that has been screwing the country for 5 years and in exchange we will possibly get what could be called soon the non-assembly since it has very little to do for at least 18 months.  Let's try first with the incoming assembly and show how unrepresentative and how undemocratic this one is.

First it was elected under an obscene gerrymandering system coupled to an obscene electoral cheating before the election which made any real political campaign an uphill endeavor at best.  To make a long story short (read the tag 2010 elections for detailed explanations) we just need to look at the graph below.
Click to enlarge.  A partial summary of electoral inconsistencies in the September 2010 vote.

This graph is one representation of the electoral cheating.  With 48% of the vote chavismo's PSUV missed the 3/5 majority by one single seat.  That is, with 48% of the vote chavismo got 60% of the representation.  That is OK in a parliamentary system where majority is the goal accepted by all parts, but it is not OK in Venezuela which is a presidential system where the constitution demands a reasonably close proportional representation.  That is, for those of you dense enough or chavista enough (same difference), with 48% of the vote you should not get more than 52% of the seats.  And this if the opposition is deeply divided, which was not the case as it got 47% + crumbs of which 4% were PPT.

If you look at the table you will observe:
  • most small states went heavily chavismo
  • most big states went heavily opposition and yet could not make up the gap even though their combined population was much larger!
  • in 4 states chavismo got LESS VOTES and yet managed to get MORE SEATS
  • there is not a single example of the contrary where chavismo gets more votes but gets less seats
  • even in the case where both sides get the same number of seats, in one of them the opposition gets much more votes than chavismo
If looking at that you still think that there is nothing wrong with the Venezuelan system, then you need to go back to school and review your arithmetic, or at least take a remedial class in philosophy of the objective object.

Thus item 1, the incoming assembly is not representative of the country in a way mandated by the constitution but perverted by electoral manipulation.  As such it starts as an already illegitimate if "legal" chamber.

And yet this was not enough for chavismo who figured out an illegal lame duck session in finding ways to gut the incoming assembly of even the power of debate.  Item 2 of the agenda was that elections were unconstitutionally held early, late September, when they should have been held the first Sunday of December.  That lameduckness was long enough for chavismo to design a remedial strategy and implement it.  Through this strategy chavismo got an enabling law that pretty much takes away at the very least 50% of the legislative activities of the new assembly for 18 months.  And thus we get to item 3 where an outgoing assembly rules on the activities of a freshly elected assembly, just as if you were a tenant but when you leave the rental you manage to establish rules on the next tenant rather than the landlord doing it!!!!!

But this is not all.  More laws where passed to diminish the role of the new assembly.  One was that the rules of the incoming assembly were changed by a parliament that had only a few days left of existence!  In these rules the number of sessions will be limited, the time of discussion and debate will be limited, the voting of the representatives will be limited to party rule.  And thus item 4 is a next assembly that will have trouble to operate in the already limited scope it will have starting tomorrow.

And yet that is not all.  A few additional laws were voted in the name of a rather nebulous  "communal power" that does not exist in the constitution, that was rejected when proposed as a modification of the constitution in December 2007.  Item 5 is thus a set of unconstitutional laws that have as a goal to take away from the new assembly its role in distributing funds to the different states and town-halls and diverse projects.  Those funds are now for direct distribution by the executive power to whichever "communal power" it wishes to do so.

Finally, the organization of the new assembly leadership and its declared intentions are practically unconstitutional in that the avowed purpose of that leadership is to minimize as much as possible the role of the assembly.  The new chair of the assembly is an ex guerrilla, a failed guerrilla at that who has never held elected office, who has no parliamentary experience and who has declared that legislation should be done by "the people" directly and that the role of the assembly would be, we presume, to vote yes or no without discussion.

It is important to note that this "in the name of the people" is a contradiction because the assembly has already given at least 50% of the assembly attributions to a single man, Chavez, and that even after 18 months of enabling law he will retain at least fiscally a good third of the assembly attributions.

That new chair,  Fernando Soto Rojas, is in fact elected in a rather unorthodox and maybe unconstitutional way (but for once I will give chavismo some slack as many representatives from both sides have not been elected as the constitution says).  Soto Rojas run for the PSUV primaries in Caracas and WAS DEFEATED!  It was Chavez who rescued him and sent him to run in Falcon state where he does not reside, and at the top of the ticket thus ensuring his election even if the docile chavista locals had no freaking idea who Soto Rojas was.  And thus our last item, 6,  for our case on how undemocratic tomorrow's democracy high point will be since I am sure most of the readers will concur with me that in theory the election of a legislative assembly is understood as the highest democratic exercise.

This item 6 is not only reinforced from a speaker who proclaims high and loud that he will minimize the role of the assembly over which he will preside but the other two feet of the leadership are hardly any better.  The first vice president will be Aristobulo Isturiz who at some point passed from a democrat form the left to the point of being in cold terms with Chavez in 2000.  Since then he has thrown his lot behind Chavez all and all, to the point of arguing on a variety of anti democratic measure such as removing state legislative assemblies.  Aristobulo has embraced all sorts of unconstitutional actions and executive power clear abuses.

But at least Aristobulo has the merit of having won his Caracas district, because the second vice-president is Blanca Eekout who was parachuted in Portuguesa in a safe seat even though she has little idea what Portuguesa is all about.  But Chavez needed the activist in her as she has made a career of attacking freedom of expression, of declaring that the only real news are the ones that come from the states news agencies and such assorted actions.  As thus she will be diligent in monitoring the oncoming opposition representatives trying as hard as she can to silence them.

And thus you have 6 items that establish clearly that the new assembly has been elected in an unconstitutional way and will have its functions defined in an unconstitutional way.

  1. The new assembly is not representative of the political landscape of the country.  As such its decisions will not represent the real wishes of the coutnry.
  2. The assembly was elected of time and thus once its composition was known a relentless attack on its future functions could be undertaken by chavismo.
  3. An enabling law neuters that assembly on more than 50% of its attributions for a period of 18 months.
  4. A new set of debate rules which diminish greatly the potential of the assembly to be the society's sounding box of new ideas and proposals.
  5. Certain attributions have been taken away permanently and unconstitutionally  from the assembly, in particular on the fiscal field..
  6. The new speaker of the assembly and his two underlings have as a mission to call on session the new assembly as little as possible and to promote as much as they can its final demise as a power of the state.
There, you have been told in full.


    1. Boludo Tejano4:35 PM

      FWIW, here is what I came up with last month, using information from esdata.States are ranked by population/voters, from smallest to largest. Hugomandering.

      estado seats
      Amazonas 3
      Delta Amarcuro 4
      Cojedes 4
      Vargas 4
      Apure 5
      Nueva Esparta 4
      Yaracuy 5
      Guárico 5
      Trujillo 5
      Barinas 6
      Portuguesa 6
      Monagas 6
      Mérida 6
      Falcón 6
      Sucre 6
      Táchira 7
      Bolívar 8
      Anzoátegui 8
      Aragua 8
      Lara 9
      Carabobo 10
      Distrito Capital 10
      Miranda 12
      Zulia 15

      estado Voters
      Amazonas 88,893
      Delta Amarcuro 106,314
      Cojedes 205,573
      Vargas 252,804
      Apure 282,187
      Nueva Esparta 304,833
      Yaracuy 378,267
      Guárico 456,171
      Trujillo 461,436
      Barinas 482,388
      Portuguesa 526,357
      Monagas 540,523
      Mérida 547,482
      Falcón 587,396
      Sucre 588,272
      Táchira 769,866
      Bolívar 875,449
      Anzoátegui 943,699
      Aragua 1,095,865
      Lara 1,122,263
      Carabobo 1,413,071
      Distrito Capital 1,570,041
      Miranda 1,874,134
      Zulia 2,242,474

      estado Voters/seat
      Amazonas 29,631
      Delta Amarcuro 26,578
      Cojedes 51,393
      Vargas 63,201
      Apure 56,437
      Nueva Esparta 76,208
      Yaracuy 75,653
      Guárico 91,234
      Trujillo 92,287
      Barinas 80,398
      Portuguesa 87,726
      Monagas 90,087
      Mérida 91,247
      Falcón 97,899
      Sucre 98,045
      Táchira 109,981
      Bolívar 109,431
      Anzoátegui 117,962
      Aragua 136,983
      Lara 124,696
      Carabobo 141,307
      Distrito Capital 157,004
      Miranda 156,178
      Zulia 149,498

    2. Boludo Tejano4:48 PM

      In Miranda-3, which went oppo, there are 321,909 registered voters.
      In Miranda-7, which went Chavista, there are 137,843 registered voters.

      Registered voters/Assembly seat
      Broken down by victors in Circuitos/Circunscripciones/voting districts, not for statewide winners.

      Miranda State
      Oppo 255,104
      Chavista 170,144

      Carabobo State
      Oppo 267,524
      Chavista 179,382

      All votes are equal, but some are more equal than others.

      Eection results are from links from the Election Results Main Page.

      Registered voters numbers from esdata.

    3. boludo

      thank you for the details. in my graph i aimed at simplicity, finding it damning enough for those who do not like arithmetic :)

      the thing is that after my trip return i never got around to do a detailed analysis of the results so i suppose that this graph will be it.

      then again i might make an additional graph in spanish like the one above including your numbers and throw it to the wolves.

    4. That there are different proportions of representation among different states doesn't bother me in and of itself - after all, look at the U.S. Congress (considering both houses), which also offers greater per capita representation to small states. (I think if we did the math, you'd find the difference much, much smaller in the U.S., and that is cause for concern.)

      But this data about vastly different-sized districts within the same state? BOGUS. There's no legitimate way to excuse that.

    5. Boludo Tejano12:03 AM

      That there are different proportions of representation among different states doesn't bother me in and of itself - after all, look at the U.S. Congress (considering both houses), which also offers greater per capita representation to small states. (I think if we did the math, you'd find the difference much, much smaller in the U.S., and that is cause for concern.)

      The US Constitution mandates that the Senate is represented by states, not by population. Whether one considers it fair or not, the Senate being so represented is a result of adhering to the US Constitution. This is not the case with Hugomandering, where Amazonas gets one Assembly seat per some 30,000 voters, and Zulia gets one Assembly seat per some 150,000 voters. The Constitution of Venezuela mandates “proportional representation,” i.e., by population. Chapter V, Article 293 10) states:
      Such other functions as may be determined by law .Electoral Power organs shall guarantee the equality, reliability, impartiality, transparency and efficiency of electoral processes, as well as implementation of the personalization of suffrage and proportional representation. [emphasis added]

      If smaller states are given proportionally more representation in the Assembly that is a violation of the Constitution that Hugo wanted.

      But this data about vastly different-sized districts within the same state? BOGUS. There's no legitimate way to excuse that.
      Thugo’s not giving proportional representation to the States is just as much a violation of the Constitution. In for a penny, in for a pound.

      Hugo not following the Constitution he had written. Why is this not a surprise?
      This is but another case of Hugo in Wonderland [actually from Through the Looking Glass].
      "When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."
      "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
      "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master— that's all."

      Who is to be master?

    6. Well, when I said that over-representation of smaller states didn't bother me, I wasn't addressing - nor even considering, I admit - its adherence to the Venezuelan Constitution. My bad. It's the concept itself that doesn't bother me, because big states can overpower the small otherwise. The U.S. method is one way to provide some balance.

      But let me propose something else: suppose the NA had X seats per estado. Would that not be proportional? I'm not sure. It doesn't say proportional to population, so I don't see that proportional to number of states is a blatant violation. Is the U.S. Senate not "proportional"? (I do believe that the Constitution is poorly written, and there are other examples. One by-product of making the document a wish list rather than a limited list of the most important guarantees. But I digress.) Perhaps not the intent of the authors, but not explicitly excluded. The current situation is between the two, so could be seen as a blend.

      I do believe, however, that the intent of the districting process was to maximize Chavista support, and as such was an absolute subversion of democracy. That should certainly be illegal, but I'm not sure about inconstitutional. At least not the part you quoted (but given its length, there probably is something else).

      There's no way, however, to explain proportionality in any way but by population WITHIN each state. On that, you and I clearly agree. Which is one piece of evidence which supports my belief above about intent.

      Good quote - really fits a place like Nicaragua right now, too, and dovetails neatly with my parenthetical note.

    7. Tejano, saw your comment two threads up, but I’ll reply here.

      Precedent would probably support your interpretation, but as you note, precedent has less place in Venezuelan tradition that many other places, so I don’t think it’s too relevant. Was an injustice done with this system? Absolutely. I just don’t know on what legal grounds to prove it. (I’m no lawyer either, much less a Venezuelan one. Not that good Venezuelan lawyers get any traction in the courts these days.)

      One last comment from me on this. I firmly hope that this system gets undone in the future, because it’s a total sham of democracy. Of course, in an ideal world, it would only be reversed after the Chavistas get totally spanked once by the process. :)


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