Political firestorm in Venezuela
By Daniel Duquenal | Venezuela News and Views
30.11.05 | Today must have been one of the most complex days in recent Venezuelan history. The political firestorm was unleashed last Wednesday when the CNE was caught cheating, and even worse, suspected of cheating on a much grander scale than what it was caught doing. Thus in short order we got a riot of news over the week end, an ultimatum to the CNE, a cave in of this one, and a massive quitting from the winning party. Huh? How come?
The Venezuelan electoral system is fraudulent.
Whether the finger print scanners are used next Sunday has become irrelevant. Now, the whole country is convinced, be it true or not, that the CNE has been monitoring who voted for what since August 2004. Jorge Rodriguez as the head of the CNE can brandish any little poll with favorable numbers, it is irrelevant. In a country which has been subjected to the Tascon fascist list where anyone on it could be barred from public jobs, education or social services, few will be brave enough to reply accurately to a pollster. Thus the consistent incongruence seen in polls since 2004.
The abstention camp is the winning one.
All polls have something in common though: they reflect an increasingly large abstention in Venezuelan elections. In addition to the lack of trust in the CNE, there is also the “tired” factor of a country used to vote only once every 5 years and now forced to vote once to twice a year. But even more, there is a sense everywhere that Chavez has made the country his and that voting simply is a useless waste of time as nothing will change. This is what is provoking the most the chavista abstention, and what hurts it, or even scares it. A populist government needs to prove itself all the time and victories with increased margins are simply meaningless if the polling stations are, well, empty. Perhaps one reason that some in the opposition are so willing to use the abstention card, disingenuously, is simply because chavismo is unable to come to grips with the fact that it is neutering its own followers.
The opposition lack of unity is perhaps its main downfall.
I am not discussing “programmatic unity” here, as the opposition goes from Bandera Roja to right wing military groups. No, any unity besides protecting democracy from Chavez is impossible and unrealistic. Still, the constant attacks on democracy by chavismo should be enough for the opposition to come up with some electoral strategy that all can stick to. After all, it did happen in 2003 when against all odds and all treachery, the recall election was called. But the opposition is unable to hold long to any unity. And this time is no exception. Managing to put together an electoral alliance, it did so late and meekly. Still, it managed to corner the CNE into surrendering the finger printing set up.
The divorce between the opposition and its electorate seems getting worse.
The abstention camp within the opposition has always been a thorn in the side of the political parties. This comes from the dismal attitude of the political parties on August 16, 2004. Since then, not a single party has been able to reestablish a minimum of trust between its leaders and their electors. The October 2004 regional elections where the opposition could have hoped to maintain at least half of its positions was a serious omen as the abstention sunk most opposition candidates, allowing chavismo with already a diminished voting force to carry almost all anyway. That chavismo failed to see its own omen does not excuse the opposition who went on to leave most town halls into the hands of chavismo in august 2005, with even higher abstention.
Final words for tonight.
It is a mess. It could end up as a severe defeat for Chavez. It could end up as the final gasp for the opposition. One thing is certain, and clear to the world: the Venezuelan electoral system sucks big time. But regular readers of this blog have known that for a long time.
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