No matter how you look at it, no matter how you interpret it or want to interpret it, yesterday’s results in the Venezuelan Municipal election were not a victory for the opposition. Far from it. They may not have been a victory for Chavismo either, but the results were far from what the opposition had expected a few weeks ago and while there were some sweet victories like Valencia, Barinas (Triple sweet and Divine Justice on the day of Loyalty to Chávez), Barquisimeto, the Alcaldía Mayor and others, squeaking by in Maracaibo was not in the plans and can not be considered to be a victory. Neither can be narrowing margins in some of the large city municipalities where it has traditionally won.
Consider this: Maduro has been President for eight months. Eight months of absolute inaction. Maduro has little charisma, speaks badly, even if he has improved his delivery. During his brief tenure in office, inflation has double to 50%, the parallel rate has been allowed to double, shortages and lines have increased significantly and the opposition could not even increase its percentage of the votes from the April Presidential election…
Of course the opposition improved from the previous Municipal elections. Of course it had to do better, but this was no victory. It was not a victory for Chavismo either, but despite the deterioration of the country, the disappearance of the maximum leader and a nebish President, all the opposition did was preserve its spaces, gaining very little.
Of course the Government abused its power over the media, used all sorts of tricks to buy votes, including a brilliant maneuver to make it look like inflation is the private sector’s fault. But prior to that, a maneuver which was actually badly timed, I saw little attack on the Government’s economic policies, little coordination on the part of the opposition in finding a topic and sticking to it. The opposition simply did not take advantage of the Government’s many weaknesses.
Both sides lost in these elections, but this means that Chavismo continues to have the upper hand. In fact, while I do not expect it to happen, it even has the chance to attempt to straighten out the economy. Imagine what would happen if the Government brought inflation down! It will not happen, Maduro is not going to see the light, but the virtual tie on Sunday gives the Maduro Government some range of action to devalue sharply, for example, or as suggested by the VP today, to increase the price of gasoline. Measures that are insufficient to fix all the problems, but that could help the sustainability of the Government long term.
Except that Chavismo is trapped in its ideology, as much as the opposition in its inability to mount an attack it. Thus, after a brief period of some rational policies, I expect Chavismo to step on the accelerator of its radicalization, just because it will be desperate. As desperate as it felt in October when it declared war on commerce. Just because it has no other plan. It will make up another war, a war that the “people” will sympathize with, catching the opposition flat footed once again.
And yes, things are going to deteriorate even further, but I think this election proves that it may not be enough to aid the opposition’s cause. The opposition can not be reactive, it has to proactive, have a plan, some form of ideology beyond wanting to get rid of Chavismo and the danger it represents to Venezuela’s economy and its people. It has to let its leaders lead and not have stale politicians telling people what they think.
About the only positive thing you can say about it is that the opposition continues to dominate the cities. In Venezuela, small cities decide elections, but big cities is where people organize against the Government when they are unhappy and disgruntled. The only question is whether the opposition will take advantage of it, or will someone else do it for them.
Maybe Maduro actually won yesterday, even if he expected more. He could have fumbled the whole thing…but he didn’t.