The people have spoken and said No, how will Chavez press his revolution forward?

December 5, 2007

The “people”
have spoken and they have said NO. By voting No, whether the margin was meager or not, the
“people” the same ones that the President and the Assembly have always
said “are” the revolution and want the revolution, have said No to the reform. And
recall that according to the Supreme Court, sovereignty resides on the
people. They are even above the Constitution.

clearly, this outcome was nowhere in the plans of Chavismo. They
stuffed their Constitutional reform proposal with items, which had and
had not their rightful place in the Constitution and never considered
the possible consequences of a defeat. And now they have one.

has never been a strong one for respecting or even thinking too much
about respecting the Rule of Law, but strictly speaking, nothing,
absolutely nothing of what was contained in the Constitutional reform
proposal can be approved by other means at this time. It would be simply illegal.
The “people” said No on all of it and only the same “people” should be
able to change their minds on all of it. No Guiarara Repano name change
should be possible, no shortened work day or even social security fund approved,
unless the “people” explicitly approve it in a referendum.

it will not be easy to have the people express a new opinion. The President and the
National Assembly cannot make another proposal on these subjects during
their respective terms and it is a long five years away for a new
Presidential term, and Chavez can’t be reelected and the National
Assembly should be in place for two more years, before a new one that could make
a new proposal will be in place.

Of course, the Government or
the opposition could have a group of 20% of voters make a different
proposal with those ideas palatable to the electorate and have it
passed if it was not too politically contentious.

there is the idea of a Constituent Assembly, which I find simply to be
too uphill for Chavismo today. Think about all that would be required for it:
A referendum to approve holding an Assembly, an election to choose the
members of the Assembly, months of discussions in a Constituent
Assembly that may actually be fairly even and finally the approval of
the new Constitution. It would take all of 2008 to accomplish this and
meanwhile the economy (see previous post) may really get complicated
for the Government and its popularity. The “people” are going to be very restless if
things don’t improve by then, thus it is very difficult for me to
envision a Chavista dominated Constituent process that will end well.

course, Chavismo has never been too respectful of form and process. It
could approve part of what was rejected on Sunday via decrees supported
by the Enabling Bill as suggested by Deputy Iris Varela today.
The Chavez dominated Supreme Court will likely back it. But unless the
range of what is approved this way is limited to the subjects that are
acceptable to the opposition, it may carry a huge political cost.

simplest way may simply be for Chavez to push his “revolution” the same
way it has been doing it in the last few years, by pushing the bounds
of legality. The Central Bank is really not independent, private
property has not been respected by the Chavez Government and even
the structures of organizations have been changed by Chavez without regards
for the laws, so what else would be different?

it was Chavismo’s refusal to truly split the questions in blocks that
leads to this quandary today. If the social benefit questions in the
Constitutional proposal had been voted as a separate block, they would
have likely been approved by the people.

of course, at the end of the day, this was all about Chavez’ indefinite
reelection and that is the main difficulty for the autocrat. There are
no easy roads that will take him there at this time and he no longer
can think beyond 2012. Which I am sure is what he is pondering and
wondering about at this time.

Note Added: It turns out that last night as I was writing this post, Chavez said in La Hojilla that he may go the route of having a “popular reform proposal” in which 20% of the population gather signatures with their proposal, as suggested above as one of the possibilities. To suceed, this would have to be limited to certain issues, but you can be sure it will include Chavez’ indefinite reelection.

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