Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Primaries shenanigans (+ new feature)

It is time for a short update before the next primary presidential debate of the Unidad rolls around next week end, if confirmed.  Nothing really major has happened, except that the number of candidates has gone up from 5 to 6 with the inclusion of Pablo Medina.  This is not expected to change anything as Medina at best would have some influence in Bolivar, Caracas, Zulia and Aragua.

It is too early to make any evaluation of sorts although I have the feeling at this point that the only regions still up for grabs is Oriente and Guyana, and thus the primary will be decided there.  But we will discuss that when the time comes.  Otherwise, for the rest of this update we will discuss the potential crisis that could fall on the Unidad anytime, all of its own making if you ask me.

The big problem facing the Unidad right now is that when it established its operating rules for the primaries it was working on the assumption that all elections would be held in December 2012.  Now, the CNE has decided to split it in three, presidential in October 2012, governors December 2012 and mayors with their councils in April 2013 (maybe...).  And yet the Unidad is refusing to change its calendar on the obvious: postpone the primaries for mayor to at the very least June, or even January 2013.  Whether Chavez loses, 3 months campaign would be enough, the more so that more than half districts will be decided by consensus, without a primary, and thus already in campaign before the respective primary.  But forcing upon mayoral candidates elected in February 2012 a 14 months wait is, well, ridiculous.  And possibly damaging as candidates may look worn out, passé, before the legal campaign starts.

And yet, there is an even worse time bomb because the hurried search for mayoral primary candidates has revealed some incipient fissures of the Unidad, in particular from AD and Primero Justicia.

This week end I was in Caracas and my contact in Voluntad Popular  invited me to the launching of their  candidates for Caracas mayoral jobs.  So I went, why not?  It is always amusing to watch politics in action when you are just an interested observer at best.

Do not worry if you do not know all the faces, there was one, on the right, for El Hatillo that I did not know either.  My point is that there is an interesting story for at least two of them.

Grateron on the left.  He is currently mayor of Chacao, the designated heir of Lopez.  He won his seat convincingly in a 4 way race with 48%.  No primaries were held as the opposition went divided in the safest district of Venezuela.  His closest challenger was Ramon Muchacho of PJ who got only 27%.  No contest, not even close. Grateron did manage a decent tenure in spite of all sorts of obstacles, to the point that this week end he inaugurated a very decent cultural center, something unheard of in Venezuela since Chavez came to office.  And yet Muchacho is challenging him in a totally useless primary as I can assure you that Grateron is going to win it by at the very least 10 points.

The thing is that PJ is still smarting that Leopoldo Lopez left them and took Chacao with him.  Also, PJ is a "right" party in spite of its counter nature alliance with PPT and PODEMOS.  Thus their birthright is Chacao, I suppose.  And to add insult to injury AD has decided to support Muchacho even if for president it does not support Capriles....  Never mind that AD supported Grateron in 2008 with a mere 7% of its total...  Fortunately ridicule does not kill politicians.

Thus Voluntad Popular rightly decided to put someone next door with Freddy Guevara (second from left).  In Sucre (Petare, Eastern Caracas), the refusal of the Unidad to change primary date for mayor (and AD in particular within the Unidad) is forcing popular Ocariz to run for Miranda state house and leave his mayor seat which could have been considered safe but will no more be so.  Now there is going to be a primary that Juan Carlos Caldera will surely win but media savvy and energetic Guevara will give him a run for his money.  Another waste of resources if you ask me.

The third story  in the picture would be Leopoldo but the story there is for the one that did not show up for the group picture.  See, VP endorsed Blyde for reelection at Baruta and PJ is also very upset at it as they think Baruta is their fiefdom, Capriles having been its mayor for two terms.  Certainly if Uzcategui had been allowed to run (he was "inhabilitado" as Lopez was) he would have won easily and Blyde of UNT would not even have challenged him seriously.  But Uzcategui could not and Blyde benefited.

Unfortunately for Uzcategui bid, even if in part justified, and certainly more than the lousy move of Muchacho, Blyde has not been a bad mayor.  Thus, instead fo recovering Baruta, PJ and AD divisive moves may well result in the consolidation of UNT and VP in Caracas at their expense.  there is still a note to be made on the abscence of Blyde: he supports Perez and thus appearing in the picture with Leopoldo could be confusing as suggesting that he supported him.  They did what responsible politicians do: "juntos pero no revueltos", together but not mixed up.  I find this pragmatism quite satisfying and a sure sign that the opposition unity in the end will prevail in spite of frequent pettiness.

Though not as clear I could also write a similar story for the other two guys in the picture, both having at least an outside chance at winning the primary respectively in Libertador and Hatillo.  But you get the point.  These petty divisions inside the opposition for seats that should not be challenged because there is really no point or justification for it, is distrating from the bigger picture.  And even if we know for sure that no matter how divided they are for the priamry these guys will be elected anyway, we are allowed to wonder.

It is not that I am negating the primary system, I am all for it, but when some claim that primaries cannot be separated in two because of the cost I wonder how dry their crocodile tears are thinking at the expenses for some primaries that are truly useless.


To simplify my wordy posts on elections I will try as much as possible to give a summary at the end of my electoral updates for the primary.  One liners, arrow up, down or even.  Candidates in alphabetical order.  Opinionated.


  1. You get this situation when you have a dictatorial party like Chavismo confronting a democratic coalition.Chavismo can maneuver easily and purposefully suddenly changing course by fiat to catch the lumbering opposition off balance, as the latter has to reconcile opinions of its different components to make a decision.

    As there is always some spoil sport who won't go along with some common sense decision, it becomes a real disadvantage.

    Also the stakes are high for the opposition parties that know that the real power for them will probably be on the regional and local level.This is because even if they were to win National elections, it is doubtful that Chavez will be leaving anytime soon.

  2. Daniel, Your 'week's trends' chart is excellent! It sums up in a few words what is happening with the candidates.

    It would be great to have it as a separate post on a weekly basis.

  3. "It is always amusing to watch politics in action when you are just an interested observer at best."

    Does this mean I am something more than just An Interested Observer? Because while Venezuelan politics certainly entertains me at times, there are far too many times when it frustrates and exasperates me. When I picked my nickname, I definitely did feel removed, but no longer, and I can't say if the change comes more from time spent, or simply that the situation worsened, and that's what drew me in more.

    I do like the chart, as well. Perhaps you could compile those into a summary (spreadsheet, maybe) and add a link on the main page?

  4. AIO

    confession: i got caught. when i wrote those lines i did think about changing them but i could not resist :)

  5. Caught? I hardly think of it that way. Though I was sure, even the first time I read it, it was intentional. Still, even though I'm sure it was not your intent, it made me think about my connection to Venezuela. I really am less DISinterested in what happens there than all the other countries where I have lived, save my own. (And sometimes even that.) It's not about the relationships; I have no ahijados in Venezuela, though I do elsewhere. So it's got to be about the politics somehow.

    Maybe it's that in other countries the leaders make decisions that may turn out poorly, but at least they make sense in some context, and arguably could be good for the country, while in Venezuela you know from the beginning it will turn out badly. And the flip side of that is that it would be so easy to improve things, start fixing them, while it's impossible to find so much "low-hanging fruit" in other countries. I think some variation of "So far from God, so near to the United States" applies to Venezuela. How about, "So far from its potential, but such a small step to the right path"? It would be a long path, to be sure, but nowhere else I know is that first step (or a series of them) so apparent. I guess that more than just "interests" me.


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