Regional Elections in Venezuela: Towards Political Disaster

Site of the National Electoral Council in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo: Efe

The opposition is fragmented, in some cases spurred on by the Chavista party and in others due to the leaders’ ego wars.

By Andres Cañizalez (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – I offer my respects to Ramon Jose Medina. For a number of years after the United Democratic Roundtable ended, he maintained a needed silence regarding Venezuela’s political future. Up until now.

Medina, who served as an alternate to former Roundtable director Ramon Guillermo Avelado, finally spoke out on September 29, harshly criticizing the opposition leadership. He lamented that the opposition hadn’t understood the need to reach agreement and unite behind one candidacy. He then predicted that the November 21 regional elections will be “a disaster”, because they won’t win any governors’ seats.

The opposition has fragmented, in some cases spurred on by Maduro’s Chavista party, and in other cases due to a kind of ego war among the democratic leaders. They’ve been incapable of sitting down at one table to work out a common strategy. In the end, their divisionism has served to consolidate Chavism as the main political force, despite its unpopularity.

Medinia didn’t explicitly say so, but his questioning was aimed at the so-called G-4, made up of four major political parties: Voluntad Popular [Popular Will]; Primero Justicia [Justice First]; Accion Democratica [Democratic Action]; and Un Nuevo Tiempo [New Moment]. This group has assumed the de facto direction of the opposition, without having developed a homogeneous or even minimally consensual strategy. The municipal and regional elections were announced with a lot of anticipation, but in the end inertia and lack of coordination have triumphed. 

The leadership didn’t grasp that in these elections the most relevant task is to reconnect with people, then take advantage of the campaign to reunify political postures, and galvanize discontent. Instead of this, we’re seeing a tournament of egos and quarrels of little importance. There are no agreements and any that were achieved, were soon disrespected. In some places, candidates were merely imposed.

In general, a citizen’s consultation, that could have functioned as a sort of primary, was avoided. That could have helped in two ways: not only would a single candidacy have been selected, but it also would have served to reconnect people with the political dynamic. As we noted in a previous article, the opposition leadership offered society no explanation as to why the movement to end the usurpation of power failed and they proceeded straight to an electoral scenario, with Maduro still in power.

The disaster that Medina predicts, will be occurring in the elections that offer the best conditions Venezuela has seen for a long time. After 15 years [without international observation], there’ll be electoral observation from an official European Union mission to Venezuela.

The return to independently observed elections is a significant political advance for the country, after a decade and a half without. During that time, the National Electoral Council, dominated by the Chavista party, merely invited “electoral accompaniment, usually from allied countries.

Another transcendental aspect is the commitment Venezuela has assumed to have the European Union publicly issue a final report.  The European Union has the expertise and impartiality, and the recommendations in its final report will be very important for future elections in Venezuela.

Ingrid Jimenez, a doctor of Political Science who consults on the topic, believes there’s been a shift on the part of the main figures from the international community involved with Venezuela (Washington, Ottawa and Brussels). As a result, the 2021 report should offer the opposition insight into the key demands and conditions they should focus on for negotiations, with an eye to the 2024 presidential elections.

For Nicolas Maduro and his party all of this is mainly a recognition of the status quo, as to who is holding power in the country. Neither the U.S., nor Canada, nor Western Europe are talking anymore about the need to remove Maduro from power. This whole process leaves former deputy Juan Guaido, who it was supposed would head the democratic transition in 2019, in an uncomfortable position.

Adding to this, Jimenez’ echoes Medina’s prediction. If there isn’t another twist in the current opposition strategy, one with a brief and positive impact, the great victor on November 21 will be the Chavist party.

“The democratic opposition isn’t enjoying its best moment. There are different postures and visions around how they imagine and want to carry out strategies to achieve political change,” asserted political expert Jimenez.

“The Venezuelan opposition is going into the elections totally divided. The National Electoral Council restored the rights of the Democratic Unity Roundtable, which was an important symbol of unity. Nonetheless, real political agreements for registering candidates haven’t been reached. There is no united strategy with an eye towards November 21,” Jimenez stated.

If around 50% of the electorate votes, given the combination of lack of interest, rejection of the political elites (official and opposition) and the humanitarian crisis which leaves each family scrambling to figure out what to eat, it’s very possible that the Chavistas end up winning, as the largest minority.

That might be something of a paradox, but it’s a fairly probable scenario. For the first time in 15 years, elections will be held in Venezuela with broad and free scrutiny from the EU, yet in these same elections, the democratic opposition could experience a sound defeat. With that, Chavism could come out strengthened and legitimized.

This article was originally published in El Estímulo.

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One thought on “Regional Elections in Venezuela: Towards Political Disaster

  • They are voting, not electing.

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