¿Qué está pasando, Dios mio?

With Primero Justicia’s decision to pull out of Sunday’s vote, four out of the six main Opposition parties are out of the race. MAS appears split, its leadership’s ability to persuade anyone to vote is questionable. Only Un Nuevo Tiempo, the Zulia-state regional party and Governor Manuel Rosales’ personal vehicle is still clearly in.

The political parties’ leadership has been typically incoherent on this whole affair. First, they spent a year and a half convincing their supporters CNE had cheated and couldn’t be trusted. Absurdly, they decided to take part in the parliamentary elections anyway. But since they’d already convinced their followers CNE would cheat, they unsurprisingly found it impossible to enthuse them about voting. In the end, they were forced to reverse their position at the last minute to avoid a humiliating defeat. You can call it “responding to the grassroots” if you want – but if the government exploits it shrewdly (which they will) the pervasive distrust in Jorge Rodriguez’s CNE could demobilize the opposition for years to come.

One big question is how this will all play out in next year’s presidential election. Having pulled out this time, the Oppo parties can hardly participate next year unless conditions improve considerably. But then, think how easy that makes it for CNE to allow Chavez to run virtually unopposed. Just refuse to go any further to meet opposition concerns than you went this time and…ta-da!

I have a feeling that’s what’s behind Teodoro Petkoff’s highly critical stance against the Oppo parties’ decision to pull out. How on earth will they mobilize their supporters next year having set this precedent? It’s not clear to me at all – and it does look like yet another case of the Opposition planning for the next 24 hours while chavismo plans for the next 24 years.

One pedestrian reality – nearly forgotten amid the hubbub – is that we now face five years of a National Assembly made up exclusively of chavista psychophants. That’s not a good prospect any way you slice it: God only knows what they’ll think up.

Another almost-forgotten historic milestone is that, for the first time since Pérez Jiménez, Venezuela will have a parliament with no adecos and no copeyanos. AD and Copei will now have to spend their time outside of the National Assembly, and the experience might just imaginably push them to do some serious work on reconfiguring, reforming, and repositioning themselves for a vastly changed political reality – a task they have really put off for way too long. If they fail to do that – and lets face it, they probably won’t manage it – they’ll probably disappear…which wouldn’t be such a bad thing, if you ask me…

Shut out of parliament, all the Opposition parties will finally get a chance to devote themselves entirely to reconnecting with a country they’ve been badly out of step with for years. Who knows, if they can withstand the growth of chavista authoritarianism sure to go hand-in-hand with an all-chavista A.N., it might even do them some good.