Christmas in July

bread_n_circus_03Ladies and gentlemen, get your cedulas ready…

Its election season again!

Finally we can put off thinking about boring, structural issues that need urgent attention like the crumbling educational system, soaring inflation, human rights violations, institutional crises and other such whatnot, and once again embark on a six-month long bender of my drug of choice: the bloated orgy of distraction that is an electoral campaign. Yaaaaay!!

(Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if having elections every 3 months is part of a premeditated scheme to permanently divert our focus from what is really important…hmmmm.)

Anyways, back to the fun stuff.  First, the basics:

Municipal elections are to be held on December 8. Up for grabs are 335 Mayor’s offices and 2389 municipal council (concejal) posts. While the MUD will run candidates chosen through opposition primaries in 2012 on a unitary platform (more on that later), Chavismo has yet to determine what method they will use to pick their candidates.  Maduro said in a PSUV meeting that they are working on a “revolutionary process”  – revolutionary largely in that it won’t rely on Chávez’s index finger, I guess.

Capriles will be campaign manager for MUD candidates, and formal registration of candidacies is slated for August 8th.

Now, there’ll be plenty to say about these races and I’ll be posting about them a lot, to the detriment of other more pressing issues, and much to Tibisay’s delight. For now, though, lets focus on the opposition as an electoral force, and what the implications are.

A little over a month ago, the MUD officially announced its hopes to run on a Unity ballot. This would mean replicating the unprecedented, and successful, strategy that led the Mesa de Unidad ballot to be the most voted ballot card in Venezuelan history on April 14. All opposition parties threw their support behind a single candidacy, but also behind a single spot on the ballot, therefore foregoing the possibility of individually capitalizing on their respective votes.

So if it ain’t broke, why fix it? (cue the power-hungry jackasses that still don’t get it.)

The obvious pros for adopting a Unity ballot include the further coalescing of the Venezuelan opposition around a distinct symbol, an emblem of true political consonance, which lends continuity to the April 14 phenomenon. It also conveys the message that parties are putting the nation’s benefit before their particular interests, something that most partisan-weary opposition voters will welcome. In practical terms, a single ballot would also simplify and optimize campaign decisions such as message, image, and advertising costs, since all candidates would be operating under a single umbrella banner.

The arguments for not adopting a single ballot, but for instead supporting individual Unity candidates in each municipality through the party platform they each represent are mostly political, but the strategic case does also get made. People argue that Presidential and Municipal elections are fundamentally different, since the former results in a single national winner, while the latter obeys specific local demands that cannot be generalized.

Others claim that political competition stimulates a higher voter turnout, since party machineries will all have incentives to get their people to the polls (and isn’t a huge national voting margin the ultimate objective?) Finally, some point to deficiencies in the MUD charter, which did not provide adequate procedures to follow in case of freak occurrences, like a Primary winner dying – which actually happened in El Hatillo.

These valid points notwithstanding, the squabble unfortunately comes down to petty power brokering and disgruntled party leaderships (I will not mention names but the color orange comes to mind when I close my eyes and think really hard).

The opposition candidacies in dispute basically boil down to: El Hatillo and Baruta in Miranda State; Libertador in the capital district, San Cristobal in Táchira, and Maracaibo in Zulia. No biggie, just some of the largest cities in Venezuela.

Each one of these cases merits its own post, since they all obey specific political circumstances. But as a primer for discussion, I’ll throw out two considerations.

First, the only governorships the opposition obtained on Dec. 16 (Miranda, Amazonas and Lara) were won by candidates who did not participate in Primaries. And keep in mind said Primaries happened almost two years ago, a time during which the political map might have shifted significantly. A case could be made for favoring pragmatism over the people’s will.

Then again, if the MUD´s project is to bring about real change, and genuinely lead by example, what better way to go about it that to preserve its moral authority, respect its own institutions, and follow its own agreed-upon rules (which, by the way, allowed the opposition to get its shit together for the first time in 14 years)? That would be truly revolutionary.