So it is
the night before the elections. The events of the week have been confusing. As
you recall I was in favor of voting because the machines seemed to be safer
than they have ever been, even if the secrecy of the vote may still be in jeopardy if
anyone keeps a log of the order in which people vote. (There is no other
recording of this in the process). Conditions were much worse when the candidates registered
for the election, there were not only the problems with the electronic part of
the system, but there were the morochas, or twin candidacies that we have talked about so much and were declared legal.
morochas or “twins” were and are unfair, one of those convoluted legal
decisions that Chavismo has used to make the absurd and illegal appear to be legal to the
people and the world. That the Supreme Court said they were legal was proof of the
pantomime our justice system has become. There is no minority representation
anymore. Even for those that are pro-Chavez, but run under a different party. In fact, despite the guarantees
established by the Constitution, that decision gives more power to the majorities.
People from abroad may have a hard time understanding why this is illegal, or
why it should even exist in our Constitution. But the answer is rather simple
to me, the guarantees of minority representation is what has allowed small
parties to flourish and thrive in Venezuelan politics.
opposition parties should have withdrawn when the decision was handed down or threatened to do so. Much like in so many
of those decisions, the puppets in positions to defend the law and the people,
the Prosecutor General and the People’s Ombudsman, sided with the autocracy and
simply forgot and ignored their Constitutional mandate.
the now fateful day when the voting machines were discovered to be flawed and
the rest is simply history. I still have not made up my mind as to whether this was
done on purpose, known to the CNE and the company that made the machines or if
it was ever used to cheat us. But it needs to be known. The truth is, the flaw was there and nobody in Government is calling
to investigate any of it. It is as if it did not matter, their plan is their
close to me told me today, the problem is that they made an electronic voting
machine that did too much. It was more than just a machine made to tally votes and mimick the voting system,
which is all you needed. It should not even have had a hard drive. It should
have added, tallied and printed. That’s it! And much like so much software around the
world it was flawed and the guarantee that it could not do what it did: violate
the secrecy of the votes was wrong. Software is like that, Microsoft has
been trying to plug the flaws in Windows for years and ask Sony about its
recent debacle with its software.
I still don’t
know whether what has happened is good or bad for the opposition. Certainly the
first results is that some political parties that should have disappeared long
ago, will now effectively disappear and good riddance to them! I will not miss
But on Monday
morning the result will not be much worse than it already was going to be,
unless the opposition voters’ abstention was going to be lower than that of
Chavismo, which was possible. But there were too many opposition groups sending
mixed signals to people that were hampering this effort. Once again, the
heterogeneity of the opposition hurt us with this mixed message. Chavismo was likely
going to get more than 66% of the National Assembly, not because they were that
much more popular but because the morochas were allowed. Period.
With a two
thirds majority of the Assembly, Chavismo was going to be able to do the deep
overhaul it wants of the Constitution and with the backing of the votes of the “people”
as the morochas appear to have been long forgotten. Now it will be questionable how they did this.
Thus, I do
think Chavismo has a lot to lose from what has happened. I truly expected the
Government to back down and reschedule elections for January. But the absence
of the opposition tomorrow changes the event radically. This is no longer a
democratic vote, with all major opposition parties having withdrawn their candidates
(MAS is not major and Nuevo Tiempo did indeed quietly withdraw their candiadtes formally). The
world has seen this too many times, a one sided election in a Government with suspicious democartic credentials, with one
difference: in most of those pseudo democracies, a large majority of the people
vote and vote for the Government.
simply will not happen here. With so many international observers running
around, it will be impossible for the Government to say that even 50% of the people
voted. In fact, given the surprisingly high abstention in August, which reached
78% with some clear shenanigans that took place late in the day helping the numbers, the withdrawal
of the opposition makes it likely that this time around it will be higher, I
think even much higher, unless the results are modified electronically. I don’t
rule this out, but this time a lot of observers are watching. Of course, the absence
of opposition witnesses makes the possibility of new types of cheating quite
Government has chosen a very risky strategy of making this a plebiscite and I
was surprised the
Vice-President used that word. Autocratic Governments that hold plebiscites
do not win by getting a majority of the votes of a small majority of the voters.
That simply does not work. You have to win big and have a large majority of the
voters show up and vote for you, which will be impossible tomorrow.
large abstention in the August election, things have not gone well for the
Chavez Government. Chavez’ international strategy has hurt his image loclly, people do
not like this idea of giving away Venezuela’s money when so many
things are going badly locally. Add to that the absence of the fingerprint
machines which give people the impression that this time they can vote anyway they
want (even if some, like Government workers, have to vote) and this
complicates matters further. Moreover the campaign has been lackluster, wherever it
has existed at all. In August, you had local candidates campaigning and
motivating the people. The Government spent a lot of money. This time, the candidates for Deputies have been almost invisible on
anyone in the opposition asked me, I would tell me to emphasize that same word
Rangel said yesterday: plebiscite. This is a plebiscite on Chavez’ popularity,
looked at it that way, tomorrow’s vote will be a huge defeat for the
Government. Emphasize that! But nobody is asking me or will ask anyway.
National Assembly will look like a joke and will make a mockery of the word Parliament, there will be no
discussions, everything will just be pushed thru at will, in a terribly
undemocratic way. Can Chavismo desire that?
And that is
why it is so hard to understand why after being caught red-handed with a flaw
in the same voting machines that were used in the previous three elections including the recall referendum, the
Governments should have behaved more democratically, should have tried to patch
things up and held more transparent elections in a month. It is much more than simply that this is not
their style that concerns me. Chavez has proven over and over again to have no
scruples, but when he has stepped over the line visibly, he has pulled back. This
time he hasn’t. The question is whether at the highest levels of Government
they decided this week that things have gone too slow and it was time to break
with the appearances of democracy and simply push forward. Does this represent
the ominous presence of a breaking point? That is my fear, as otherwise the
Government has too much to lose tomorrow.
soon know. If abstention is 80% tomorrow, the Government will no longer be able
to claim it is democratic in origin and may go and travel a completely different path
than that traveled in the last seven years. And that, my friends, is quite scary.