Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Opposition Primaries – Playing Democracy

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On February 12th the Venezuelan opposition is due to hold internal or primary elections to elect the candidate who will face President Chávez in the Venezuelan presidential elections on October 7, 2012.



However, based on the mood – or absence of it – and the apparent lack of enthusiasm by opposition voters for this democratic contest, the entire hullabaloo of these elections dominating the opposition-run private media for the last year or more could come crashing down around their ears.

At least that is the bet being made by Mario Silva of the popular TV opinion program “La Hojilla” (The Razorblade) broadcast live every night at 11pm, until the small hours, and universally watched and loathed by the fanatics of the opposition here in Venezuela.

Miguel Angel Perez Pirela, an expert analyst of political and philosophical matters also has a program, “Cayendo y Corriendo” on state television here. He presents a similar view of the opposition in the coming elections.

In 2006 the opposition cancelled their primaries and decided on Manuel Rosales as their single candidate “by consensus”. Latest polls indicate that around one million or fewer people will bother to vote on February 12th to elect the candidate and this would be a political disaster for the opposition. In 2006 they were boasting about 6 million voters turning out and then cancelled the internal elections.

This year, if the opposition decides to select a candidate “by consensus” this will blow the Democratic Unity Table (Mesa de Unidad Democrática or MUD) apart and show the opposition as being undemocratic whereas they always say that they are the “democratic opposition”, despite participating in the 2002 coup d’état and the oil industry sabotage of the same year.

If they do hold the primary election and fewer than one million people turn out this is a political abyss for them. Mario Silva maintains that they are awaiting instructions from the US Embassy on what to do.

Since mid December, when it has become crystal clear that Chávez is riding high in the polls, there is waning interest and enthusiasm for the opposition media circus starring the “pre-candidates” for the primaries. Opposition spokespeople have now started scrabbling for excuses such as chavismo will sabotage the elections on February 12th (which is National Youth Day) by holding huge rallies to intimidate voters in Caracas and other major cities. Chavez has given instructions that the only celebrations to be held for National Youth Day will be in Aragua, in La Victoria, a town of around 180,000 inhabitants.

Today the new Minister of Defense, General Rangel Silva, stated that he would use Plan República (deploy the military to guard voting centers on February 12th) to ensure that all is well ordered and peaceful on primary voting day. The primaries are being supervised and organized by the National Electoral Council (CNE) so everything is set for a demonstration of opposition mass democracy on the date they chose. More cooperation from the political adversary (i.e. the Chávez government) could not have been wished for.

Despite having all that is needed to hold well-organized electronic voting there are still grave doubts that these primaries will even take place. Mario Silva reckons that this situation will be unwound and clarified by January 23rd latest so…….despite all the propaganda and lies spun by the local and international media about the importance of the primaries, the opposition has managed to paint itself into a corner once again. Wavering voters or even moderate opposition supporters will be reluctant to go and vote for one of the six candidates since not one of them has any cogent plan except for opposing Chavez which these days is simply not good enough.

There are various scenarios to be considered. Holding the primaries would be a political disaster for opposition credibility. So, somehow chavismo has to be blamed for cancelling the primaries and selecting the “unitary candidate” by consensus.

The consistent leader of the opposition candidates has been Henrique Capriles Radonski, Governor of Miranda state with well over 50% of voter intention. Second has been Pablo Pérez, Governor of Zulia state. It would seem logical based on the polls that Capriles will be the consensus candidate. However, Pérez’s main party supporting him is Acción Democrática (AD.) AD is by far the best organized and represented opposition party in the National Assembly as well as in terms of mayoralties up and down the country.

AD has the whip hand in this situation. It can bring out voters for the primaries and for the presidential elections on October 7th. On the other hand, Capriles party, First Justice Party (PJ) is very weak in this sense compared to AD nationally and in the real world of voting AD has far more supporters than PJ. In my opinion, if it comes down to a consensus battle, AD will have its man, Pérez, as the unitary candidate and probably destroy the already split PJ party in the process.

The other scenario could be that the MUD will implode and as a result there will be more than one candidate from the opposition side. This will hand the presidential election to Chávez on a silver platter ten months before voting even takes place as the opposition vote splits down the middle.

The implications of not holding the primaries goes even deeper than ruining any ray of hope the opposition had of getting back into power and getting their hands on the oil revenues. The primaries are also to select unitary candidates for mayoralties and state governorships. Now if all this comes down being decided by consensus, who is “playing at being democratic”? It will all become a question of money and trafficking influences as it always was in the IV Republic from 1958 – 1998 when the country was run by the US aligned bourgeoisie.

To conclude – the Venezuelan opposition is almost running Chávez’s campaigning for him. No ideas. No plans. No originality. Just the same tired bitching and criticism about anything and everything the government or the President does or says. Even the opposition flagship TV channel. Globovision is now trailing well behind the main state channel is terms of viewer ratings so it is clear that even anti-chavistas are fed up and bored with the opposition antics and tactics.

Finally, no-one has asked how the opposition candidates for the primaries were selected in the first place. Not one was selected by a vote from the party grass roots – except for maybe Leopoldo López of Voluntad Popular who won the presidency of his party in a national vote, organized by the CNE. It was a real pity that only 150,000 people voted.

It was a question of money. To participate in the opposition primaries each candidate had to put up Bs.F.1, 000,000 (US$232,558). This exemplifies the capitalist nature of their mentality which has certainly lost favor in Venezuela since Chavez declared himself a socialist in late 2006.

When it is all about NED and USAID dollars and the only policy you have is to criticize Chavez and his Ministers, offering no viable alternative except a return to Venezuela’s nefarious social past, then you have little hope of winning anything – not even the primaries which look odds on to be cancelled.


Arturo Rosales is a seasoned journalist who has worked in several Latin American countries. Since 1999 he has been writing on a voluntary basis to disseminate the truth about environmental and energy issues which are often obfuscated in the corporate media. With the advent of the Bolivarian revolution he turned his hand to more politically angled writing, especially when analyzing the effects and strategy of the Global Corporate Empire on the third world and Latin America in particular. Currently, Arturo is a staff writer for Axis of Logic.


This article first published at Axis of Logic.

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