Leopoldo endorses opposition primaries

Juan Cristóbal says: – Leopoldo López, the former mayor of Chacao and an early front-runner for the 2012 opposition Presidential nomination, made some important news this morning.

In an article by Roberto Giusti in today’s El Universal, López makes a whole lot of sense. He says the opposition’s current non-strategy simply isn’t viable, calling for primary elections to make up a single slate of candidates for the coming city council and National Assembly elections.

His main argument stems from the lessons we all should have learned in last year’s Regional Elections. In spite of some notable successes, he calls a spade a spade and says that our side underperformed. He makes a strong case, pointing out that the opposition lost 76 mayor’s offices and two governorships due to lack of unity, highlighting Barinas, Bolívar, Chacao and Baruta particularly as the most egregious cases (although in the case of the latter two, our side won).

He thinks the lack of unity and the ugly spectacle of backroom deals to hatch half-baked unity pacts turned off the opposition base. He points to Datos polling numbers showing that support for opposition politicians fell from 25% in early 2008 to 11% now.

How do we address this?

Easy: doing things differently.

He says primaries would enable our own base to participate in making unity lists, and that this would add legitimacy to our candidates, not to mention that it would allow the political parties their proper weight instead of giving each one an equivalent seat at the table.

“If we don’t consult the voters,” he says, “and define a clear perspective in the medium run, we are going to reach January without a shared strategy that generates enthusiasm and shows change in political leadership, and this would just be a rehash of the mistakes of the past.”

He says that choosing candidates from the base would show the opposition endorses “a new way of doing politics”, and thinks such a process can provide leverage and enable the opposition to harvest local leaderships named by the communities themselves.

Personally, I think this is exciting news. I have argued for a change in opposition tactics, spearheaded by a change in the opposition’s leadership. I’ve been a latecomer to the idea of primaries, but the failed experience of last year convinced me that this is the only alternative to have an opposition movement that is national, organized, and credible.

The lackluster, haphazard, recently created “Mesa de Unidad” has generated zero enthusiasm. The government was quick to label it as a re-thread of failed experiments in the past, and guess what, they are right.

The last few weeks convinced me even more that only a bold approach can work. I’ve been waiting for months for an opposition bigwig to come out and endorse this idea, and I’m glad to see it happen.

While I have always recognized his talents, I’ve been critical of López in the past, and I’m not entirely sure I agree with his idea of inviting the CNE to organize the primaries. But by coming out and stating the obvious, by being the only opposition heavyweight willing to show a little bit of vision, I’m burying the hatchet.

López is now my favorite opposition politician.

Let’s hope the others catch on to the idea of primaries and start understanding a simple fact: this is a necessary condition for the opposition establishing a new majority, our only (and perhaps last) hope.