Voluntad Popular: A small and important step towards a more democratic Venezuela

July 11, 2011

While Venezuela’s Constitution says that the authorities as well as the candidates have to be elected in internal elections (Art. 67), this has seldom been the case and since most political parties are private clubs run by their founders, nobody complains much about it and the rules are not enforced by either the Electoral Board (CNE) or the Venezuelan Supreme Court, which is another demonstration of the sorry state of the rule of law in Venezuela.

There have been efforts to elect authorities and candidates in the past, but many of them have led to parties splitting up or to rules being manipulated in such a way that the law was bypassed. The most notable example was the election for candidates in PSUV, where Chavez basically had veto power if the candidate did not get over 50% of the votes in the primary. He not only exercised that power, but some losers were winners in the process and vice versa.

In 1994 Eduardo Fernandez held an open election for the candidate for his party COPEI, thinking that he was a cinch to win it. Oswaldo Alvarez Paz surprised him by beating him, but then lost the national election.

When Chavez ran for President, all of the candidates were “self-selected”, including Chavez, Salas Romer, Irene and Alfaro Ucero. Since then, there have been no primaries to select a candidate.

Thus, I think it is fantastic that Leopoldo Lopez held elections yesterday for his “movement” Voluntad Popular. Yes, it is “his” movement, but this may change some day, he just opened it to thousands of people and he will have to follow the same procedure in the future. Moreover, decisions will now be made by one coordinator per state and more than 7,000 candidates participated in the process. I am sure not all of them think alike and things will be discussed by groups of people and not just a few individuals.

I have always believed that the only way to change politics in Venezuela is to have more democracy in the political parties and movements. The step taken by Voluntad Popular is certainly a huge one and in the right direction. Hopefully, others will follow this and it will become the norm, rather than the exception.


48 Responses to “Voluntad Popular: A small and important step towards a more democratic Venezuela”

  1. Escualidus Arrechus Says:

    Well, I’ll go ahead and play the bad cop.

    In a civilized country, I don’t think political parties should hold open elections. Closed (or semi-closed) elections? Yes. Members of the party should elect the party’s authorities, and eventually, its candidates.

    But a political party represents a particular vision for the country, a distinct proposal. I fail to see how allowing any random yobo off the street to vote in a given party’s internal elections helps in any way. ‘Raiding’ by parties who instruct its members to vote for the weakest link of a rival party has occurred in developed countries, I don’t even want to imagine what the PSUV would do when/if open party elections become the norm in Venezuela. The 2018 election might well be Chavez’s rotting corpse vs. Pedro Carmona.

    However… What VP have done here is strike a blow for transparency, which is, in my mind, infinitely more important than VP’s own platform, at the moment. Regardless of the merits of opening up a party’s election, they have shown the regime that they don’t fear the say of the people, and that’s a step in the right direction.

  2. Ira Says:

    I am not even allowed to fucking email family there criticizing Chavez.

    50% of is it that half the family has turned into total Chavez fascist bastards, and the other 50% are afraid that they’ll suffer from repercussions when I tell them what a scumbag Chavez is–and they agree with it but are afraid about computer monitoring.

  3. moctavio Says:

    How come? Explain….

    • Juan Cristóbal Nagel Says:

      Well, it was great of them to have an open election, but VP is not really a political party yet. I mean, they’re doing the work, but can you name a single public position they control? I think they have like a mayorship here or there, and one deputy perhaps? I don’t know, they don’t really register yet, and the party itself has very little name recognition. Their two main political figures are Leopoldo Lopez, who is barred from holding office, and Carlos Vecchio, who has lost every single thing he has run for (if I’m not mistaken).

      Maybe I went too far with the Junta de Condominio comparison, but you know what I mean. They aren’t really a player yet.

      • moctavio Says:

        No, I wanted you to explain why you could not vote.

        In any case, dont underestimate LL, he is charismatic and not being able to run in 2012 may work in his favor.

        • Juan Cristóbal Nagel Says:

          Oh, I don’t know why I couldn’t vote. I signed up, they asked for a copy of my passport, I sent it, along with a bunch of other sensitive information, and I never heard from them again.

  4. Juan Cristóbal Nagel Says:

    These elections are about as relevant as elections for a Junta de Condominio. Only the Junta elections work better, in this one, I tried to vote and couldn’t.

  5. Ira Says:

    When will ANY of the opposition candidates realize that they have to act as nastily, impulsively, ignorantly, and clandestinely as the Chavistas have acted, in order to beat them?

    It’s pretty obvious that the VZ electorate is comprised of total idiots, plus cowards. And if you don’t recognize this simple fact, how does anyone think the Chavistas can be beaten?

    Let’s put Kepler’s past meaningless analyses…and othes’analyses…aside:

    It seems that the majority of Venezuelans WANT to become Cubans, and live in that world.

    So forget it, folks. And forget, it Miguel:

    You lost, and it’s over.

    VZ is DEAD as you knew it…now dead officially.

  6. Dr. Faustus Says:

    And now back to reality…

    Democracy ‘also’ requires that there be a respect for the outcome of any democratic election. Respecting the winner, and deferring power to such, is fundamental to understanding how real democracy works…

    The reality in Venezuela, however, is the following:

    A populist thug has captured political power in Venezuela by using the wealth of the country’s primary source of income, Pdvsa, and destroying its political opposition with it. No political party in Venezuela can hope to achieve anything close to the economic power base of the PSUV. It’s near impossible. They control the source of most political money to be found in Venezuela, Pdvsa. That is the grim reality of democracy in Venezuela. Yet,…..yet,….despite this enormous advantage, the Chavinistas are still barely able to achieve 50% plus of the electorate. (er,…if that) Why? Were one to read the philosophy underpinning the ideas of socialism, one would think that socialism would be favored by the vast, vast majority of all people living. Taking from those who have more to those who have less. A noble idea. That’s what we’re told. It is, of course, …a lie. But an even bigger lie is that the PSUV claims to be democratic. They aren’t. There is very little about the PSUV which is democratic. It’s simply a gigantic fraud. It works for them now, but the future may be a different matter. Always remember the words of an ashen-faced Adan when he found out his brother had cancer. He didn’t speak about their ideas and philosophy being better for the people. No, he didn’t. He spoke about Che Guevara and the “armed struggle.” That’s reality. It is a rare glimpse at the truth,….at reality. Would they really give-up power in 2012 if they lost the election? Really? I don’t think so.

    • jau Says:

      PSUV’s plans for 2012:
      plan A: win outright using PDVSA money
      plan B: win outright by inflating the REP
      plan C: win outright by phantom votes in controlled rural areas
      plan D: win outright by controlling CNE totalization process
      plan E: scare public employees about voting secrecy
      plan F: pay out oppo leaders to say and say that the CNE is P E R F E C T!
      plan G: pay out the candidate and other oppo leaders to accept the fraud
      plan H: inabilitate oppos best candidates
      plan I: do all of the above and more.
      Plan J: If all that fails grab your AK47, Sukois and tanks and stay in power.

      Oppo leaders plan for 2012:
      plan A: collect for the job well done (the ones under the PSUV payroll)
      plan B: (the ones not on PSUV payroll) hope that we get a HUGE difference in voting so the fraud is just not possible to cover.
      plan C: Hope and pray that the cancer is terminal.

  7. anon Says:

    It made me uncomfortable to see they didn’t skirt the CNE maquinitas and use a transparent, paper-based voting system.

    • Carolina Says:

      In Canada we vote with a little piece of paper and and Ikea pencil, and all the ID you need is your driving license, and most of the time one is in and out in 15 minutes or so.
      No fingertip machines, no cedula vigente, no purple pinky, no automatic machines with built in glitches. Perhaps the only control to avoid fraud is that the pencil doesn’t have an eraser…
      Naive? maybe. Love the system of trust? Definitely. that what this country is about.

  8. firepigette Says:


    it may not be perfect but is a step in the right direction

  9. firepigette Says:

    Some people are never satisfied with attempts to improve and make things more democratic 🙂

  10. moctavio Says:

    Yes, because they got rid of the ones they did not like

  11. moctavio Says:

    Carlos Vecchio.

    As to debate, name a single party with debate. Or ideas for that matter.

    Venezuela is a desert of ideas, maybe by having people vote, they will get them going.

    • Francisco Toro Says:

      Sure, but you see what I’m getting at. The point of this election seems very much to be to allow VP to say they have had an election! There’s an oddly formalistic understanding of “democracy” involved, one that turns the act of voting itself into a kind of fetish. In VP, you don’t vote at the end of a discussion to settle the matter. You vote to show you’re the kind of person who makes decisions by voting.

      • moctavio Says:

        No, I think LL is building a national structure for the future (beyond 2012), but by holding elections, it will be open to others (in contrast to other parties which are closed). This will inevitably lead to much more discussion. The absence of democracy is in my mind the reason for the demise of the IVth. Republic parties and only via democracy you will have “healthy” parties. I put my bet in 2025 with those parties that have democracy, independent of their political or ideological stance. If one or two parties do it, they will have to adapt or die.

      • A. Barreda Says:

        “… you don’t vote at the end of a discussion to settle the matter. You vote to show you’re the kind of person who makes decisions by voting.”

        Bro, that description fits almost ANY democracy in the world. Most of the people don’t vote based on any particular issues. They vote just because. People choose one candidate over another for no particular reason. Sometimes even the political junkies fall for that.

        As for your expectations about VP, well, Rome was not built in a day. I think we will have to wait and see what happens…

  12. Francisco Toro Says:

    Quick, name a single VP candidate other than Ojitos…

    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

    OK, quick, name any important policy difference between candidates in VP’s election? Any substantive debate on any given issue?

    Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

    Guys, voting is a way of making decisions at the end of a deliberation process. That’s when it means something.

    VP’s weird simulacrum reminds me of down ballot U.S. elections: like voting for country judgeships and such, where none of the voters know who any of the candidates are and people just vote for whichever last name they see matches their own ethnicity, so a Pryzbylewski always wins in the Polish neighborhood and a Bernardoni sweeps Little Italy every single time…

    • Alek Boyd Says:

      Couldn’t agree more with you there FT…. VP is but the personal vehicle of LL, as much as UNT is the one of Rosales, AD of Ramos Allup… Funny enough, at this stage, the one that seems more diverse and shows more than one identifiable talking head is PJ.

      • A. Barreda Says:

        Partially agree. Right now, VP looks like the LL’s personal party, but there is a huge difference: if tomorrow somebody rise to stardom like LL, he may as well be kicked out of the party, because the elections are open. That’s not the case in UNT, AD and your highly touted PJ.
        Furthermore, if Borges had the slightest chance of getting more than 1% of the votes in a presidential election, I’d bet my house that Borges would be selling himself and not HRC as PJ’s candidate…

  13. moctavio Says:

    “Right-wing neo-liberal” Wow! Such deep content.

  14. A. Barreda Says:

    This is the way to go for each and every political party. After all, isn’t that what our constitution says?

    Still, I have to agree with Sánchez García’s conclusion*: it’s a big step in the right direction, but it will probably take some years before it blooms. Although I’d like to see LL as a candidate in 2012, I think they shouldn’t play it short term. The candidacy shouldn’t be VP’s main goal. It should be to create a lasting, strong party.

    * http://www.noticierodigital.com/2011/07/voluntad-popular-una-pica-en-flandes

  15. Alek Boyd Says:

    Primaries? Great stuff. Primaries involving CNE? Stupid stuff.

  16. Judi Lynn Says:

    Just shut this blog down, it is a laughing stock and the oligarch parties little show of “democracy” isn’t fooling anyone. You might fool a few people but south america as a whole is so tired of the right wing neo liberal apologists and will never vote your scummy kind in again you can bet on it. Whether Chavez leads or someone else makes no difference.

    • island canuck Says:

      Wow. Nothing from Arturo / Pygmalion in a few days & up pops “Judi Lynn”.

      There are no coincidences in the real world.

      Ja, ja, ja

    • Ira Says:

      What precisely is an oligarch?

      Is that someone who has one more dollar/bolivar than you do?

      Hey, Einsein–here’s a clue for you:

      There is no such thing as an oligarchy. And Che is long dead (thank God), s
      o get over it!!!

    • ErneX Says:

      Look at you go!

    • Carolina Says:

      Judi – A couple of questions/comments for you:

      1. Are Colombia & Chile part of your “continent as a whole” as you call it? Or you just have never seen a map? (You are reminding me some Miss Teen USA a couple of years ago).

      2. Please send us a link of your “right wing neo liberal” ideology. I can’t find anything on the net and it sounds….intriguing! Maybe you just gave us the answer to all our doubts and concerns.

      3. I thought that having an independent blog, open to new ideas and comments, was part of the freedom chavistas brag so much about giving back to people. Why then Miguel should shut it down just because you like what he posts? Welcome to what “freedom” really means!

      4. On a last and more serious note, if Chavez doesn’t lead, your fraudulent socialism of the 21st century won’t survive. Chavistas have said that themselves.

  17. m_astera Says:

    Does this Voluntad Popular have any good ideas or an innovative platform? Or are they simply worthy of praise for doing one thing openly and democratically?

    • Kepler Says:

      Hombre, Michael, tú sí que exiges; Por primera vez consiguen hacer algo de manera abierta y democrática y ¿encima estás pidiendo un PRO-GRA-MA con CON-TE-NI-DO? ¿Qué crees que somos? ¿Suecos?

      Wee joke, wee joke.

  18. moctavio Says:

    They will have to vote on it!

  19. bruni Says:

    IMHO they will support MCM now, that’s what the logic states, and the fact that Alejandro is there as well.

  20. moctavio Says:

    I dont think he will be a candidate even if the Vatican says he should be.

  21. island canuck Says:

    When do we find out if LL can be a candidate again?
    Is there no time limit to his sentence by Russian?

  22. moctavio Says:

    after they split or they split over them

  23. Kepler Says:

    Kudos. Now: weren’t there primaries within Primero Justicia?

    • A. Barreda Says:

      I think PJ is still doing indirect elections. LL left the party because Borges’ faction was not interested in changing that. At the time, Borges stuck to the “estatutos” and said that primary elections inside the party were verboten.

  24. CarlosElio Says:

    Kudos to Leopoldo Lopez and VP. A good thing for me would be to find ways of collaboration with VP from Ann Arbor. I welcome suggestions.

    • Maria Says:

      You must be one of those venezuelan socialists, abundant in that isolated ivory tower wasteland you call Ann Arbor and that you choose to confind yourself in. Come to Okemos, travel to Lansing and forward on to Upper Peninsula. Only then, you will have any idea of what Venezuela should be.

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