Some thoughts on the Venezuelan National Assembly elections in September

March 14, 2010

I have written very little about the upcoming National Assembly elections. There are a number of reasons for this. While I do support whatever slate comes out of the “Mesa de Unidad” process and fortunately in my district candidates will be elected in a primary, it does not mean that it gets me very excited.

I know the opposition is so heterogeneous that it is not easy to get it to agree on everything, but at the same time, except for the fact that it is a lot more democratic than the non-democratic Government that presides over Venezuela, there are few parties there that are to my liking. If any.

I just know that the opposition candidates are better prepared and qualified than those ready to be anointed by Hugo Chavez as his deaf-dumb Deputies. But as you all know, I am in full agreement with Leopoldo Lopez in that ALL candidates should have been chosen in a primary. I just don’t like the “cappuccino” politicians that have been chosen, just because…even if they will be orders of magnitude better than the alternative.

I would have really liked to hear some nutty opposition candidate campaigning on the back of the proposal to eliminate the Venezuela’s military, double the education budget and a plan to provide real, good health care for all.  We need new and real ideas, not to out-Chavez Hugo.

Then there is the question of how much we should get in September. I really would hate for the opposition to win. And it is irresponsible to sell the concept that we are likely to win. While it is true that between now and September the opposition will gain even further, it is not and easy battle not only because of the way the electoral districts have been redesigned, but because the Government will have more resources. Thus, to get a majority, the opposition may need to win in 55-60% of all the votes.

But I personally don’t think we want to win.

First of all, if the opposition wins, Chavez will spend the next three years blaming the opposition fro not being able to deal and handle the crisis that is already here. I have yet to meet a single economist that thinks the Venezuelan economy will grow in the next three years unless oil goes above US$ 100, which seems unlikely.

But more importantly, I think that an opposition with between 40% and 50% of all the Deputies will make life Hell for an autocrat that is not used to even talking to his own people. Seventy opposition Deputies are going to make life very difficult for Hugo, they will be interviewed going in ad out of the Congress building, they will have the right to speak, they will question and denounce. Not only is Chavismo not used to this, but things are such a mess that they will be unable to defend much.

And then there is the ultimate reason while we don’t want to have a majority. Chavez can always make the National Assembly irrelevant by bypassing it and leaning on his parallel structures to channel money to the communal power, making the National Assembly simply irrelevant.

Just some thoughts for all those asking what I think: Let’s have a plural National Assembly, let Chavistas cook themselves in their own salsa between 2010 and 2012 and let the opposition make lots of noise in the process. Who knows, we may even have a new leader emerge from all this. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves of what we can do and expect to do.

19 Responses to “Some thoughts on the Venezuelan National Assembly elections in September”

  1. vendoc Says:

    Miguel is right. They will fight us to the end. The battle will involve politics but will not be won in the political arena. We need strategies of overcoming because chavez will never relinquish power voluntarily. It’s us or them and we are not in a very good position, but we have to fight. The one favor we do have is that we are smarter than chavismo. Maybe the political oppo can’t but there are intelligent and crafty people on our side who can out maneuver chavismo. This is a battle we have to win whether it be a debate, an election, or a bloody battle in the streets. The international community won’t do it. We have to. We have 3 options… 1. fight and win 2. give in and live in a cuba/zimbabwe 3. flee

  2. moctavio Says:

    Let me add one thought: Venezuela has a bipolar Government. The incompetent Government that runs the country, composed of “local” radical talent and on the other side the international radicals that make up the propaganda and media machine that so effectively promotes Chavez. This machine can’t let go off Venezuela, too much is at stake, from Cuba’s financing to the future of all Chavista-financed revolutionaries. This machine will fight us to the end without care.

    Just thougth would clarify my less than optimistic outlook.

  3. Roy Says:

    Lucia,

    It is hard to live here and be optimistic. It is not just the politics. The society itself is broken. Each day, I encounter more and more people on the street that won’t or don’t even extend the most basic of courtesy to one another. This is a society that does not respect the rules of the road, nor any other rules that permit people to work and play nice together.

    Personally, my moments of hopefulness are becoming the exception, rather than the rule.

  4. moctavio Says:

    Sincerely, the objective of this blog has evolved in time, I used to be so much more optimistic, not only about Chavez, but about this poor country, my “optimistic” scenario now is we need a conflict with the Government to get rid of Chavez and I think it’s coming…and too many will follow him and it will be violent, the alternative is indeed Zimbabwe.

  5. lucia Says:

    What a depressing analysis!

    I don’t know. I think once people understand that Chavez has no mystical connection to the people, that he’s just an ordinary politician, he becomes subject to the same rules as other politicians. I don’t doubt that he and some important people around him would do anything to stay in power. It’s all the other people he’ll need to go along with him…

    I bet in your heart of hearts you are slightly more optimistic, too (!). This blog hopes to affect the debate, not just chronicle Venezuela’s transformation into Zimbabwe. Right? (she asked hopefully….)

  6. moctavio Says:

    Lucia: I have a much more negative outlook than you do, the day the gloves come off, it will not be a matter of censorship, it will be a matter of where to hide. The security agencies will not care what the world says. They will do what they have to do. Everyone involved should have a hiding Plan B.

  7. lucia Says:

    I think you’re underestimating the power of winning an election. It will give those who want a democratic end to Chavez’s regime the upper hand in the coming years.

    International perceptions about Chavez’s legitimacy may not matter to you. But they may matter to those in key security agencies who will have to make decisions about whether and how much repression they’re willing to use.

  8. Antonio Says:

    I agree that the unique goal that opposition have is to show to the World that Chavez is really a dictator.

    And this will happens when opposition wins parliamentary or presidential election so clear and with a great advantage that Chavez will be forced to “kick the playing board.”

    But, I am hallucinating now that even in the event that Chavez is pretending to put censorship on Internet, the World still looking at us like nothing really happens here.

    So the goal for opposition is to wins a moral issue. Because at the end, I am very pessimistic.

    If opposition wins an important election, Chavez will not recognize and then will rule Venezuela through decades until he dies, and then a puppet of G2 and Cuba in his place. I believe this century for Venezuela is off.

    However, I hope that people like MO can change the destiny of the failure country.


  9. I respectfully disagree, the difference between 47% and 53% in the Assembly is irrelevant for running the country with all he has in place and he can be masterful at turning things around. The goal should be to get rid of him in 2012, controlling the Assembly may work against that in my opinion. I really care little about international opinion or perceptions, we have to get rid of Hugo, nobody will do it for us.

    Quico, in the same note, I think 45% is as destabilizing as 55%. My favorite would be 49%.

  10. lucia Says:

    I think your analysis is flawed! Government/public/military/international perceptions about how much public support Chavez has are crucial. Winning an election against him would send an important message about where he stands.

  11. Gregorio Says:

    La situación económica y política del país es tan deplorable, que difícilmente pueda llegarse a su reversión, en medida apenas satisfactoria, sino después de varios años después de comenzado a disminuir el predominio del actual régimen. Es preferible que éste continúe cargando con la responsabilidad de lo que hizo mientras la oposición logre con su influencia la paulatina recuperación.

  12. caracaschronicles Says:

    It’s not about “winning the assembly”, it’s about destabilizing the regime. Nothing destabilizes the regime more than getting more votes than they do and forcing them to “kick the playing board.”

  13. Roberto Says:

    Put me in the “Roy Camp” too.

    I don’t believe for a nano second that Esteban Chacumbele is going to allow the Opposition to control the Asamblea. Even if they get the votes to do so.

    He’ll pull some trick out of his Keister to make it irrelevant, like the comunas or some other convenient figure. Ask Mr. Ledezma.

    That there will be fraud and manipulation should not be in doubt.

    What I personally doubt, is whether El Pueblo is going to have the stones to fight for what is right.

  14. concerned Says:

    I agree with Roy. Conceding is similar to the infamous boycott. We know how that worked out.

  15. Roy Says:

    Miguel,

    Your analysis assumes that Venezuela is a democratic country and that the government will respect the will of the majority. I agree with those who say that Chavez will simply find a way to make the AN irrelevant.

    By 2012, if Chavez stays in Miraflores until then, he will have had to eliminate or neuter all of the remaining democratic aspects of the Venezuelan government. You won’t be able to vote him out of office any more than Fidel could have been voted out.

    Venezuela’s best hope is for some sort of transition to occur when Chavez is at his weakest as a result of the power crisis and economic collapse. If he survives this year, he will manage to put a new constitution in place, and consolidate absolute control. In two more years, most of the serious opposition will have fled and the remainder will be resigned to living under a Cuban-like state.

    Assuming that events don’t spin out of control before September, if Chavez loses the elections in an overwhelming manner, this would send the signal to the population that says just how weak he is, leading to a recall election that could actually win if it is controlled and monitored properly.

    Finally, if Chavismo resorts to massive fraud to retain contain control of the AN, this too could precipitate the “transition”.

    By any of the possible scenarios, for the opposition to pull its punches now is an error. It needs to generate massive turnout and solidarity. The Venzuelan’s will know the real result of the elections, regardless of what the CNE says. After that, we will see. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that you will ever have better opportunity in the future put Venezuela back on path to democracy.

    Carpe diem!

  16. Kepler Says:

    I perfectly agree. I would add, on education: and that most of it goes to the primary and secondary schools. I know some university teachers will disagree, but priorities are priorities and that would make students more effective anyway.

    And let Venezuelan pupils get one extra year school before going to university, as most others in the rest of the world (allow skipping one year, I did that).

    We need to teach Venezuelans to debate. It will be hard. There was little culture of debate and it has completely disappeared during the chavista period. We need to show people how they do that elsewhere and how we can do it.

    The National Assembly may be a tool, but as others have said, the regime will emasculate it very soon. It wil be mostly replaced by some parallel mechanism, one with some kind of Popular congress or the like controlled by the PSUV.

  17. Robert Says:

    I’m pretty sure Chavez will find a way to cut them off at the knees regardless what the percentage is. Well, at least that’s what he’s indicated.

  18. Carlos Says:

    I also agree, let the govt stew in their own juice and the oppo point out another way out of this mess. Hope it’s not “mas de lo mismo” and “quitate tu para ponerme yo” which seems to be the extent of their intellectual ability. I have seen very few oppo initiatives that would empower venezuelans to think and act for ourselves. Now is the time to think outside the statist block which does not work and a more libertarian view to make us grow up instead of acting as wards of the state.


  19. I definitely agree. ~40% for opo is the best scenario (for opo)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: