Of consensus and primaries

outsideboxHere’s what we know so far about the MUD primaries for National Assembly nominations: they will happen on May 17th, and only in 38 out of 87 districts up for election.

Compared it to the previous parliamentary elections, we had primaries in 22 out of 87 district. The fact that there will be more primaries now is an improvement, but given the times, it is not enough. As you can see, all major voting centers will go without primaries.

This is a mistake.

Negotiated consensus and primaries are both fine ways to resolve conflicts. We can shake hands and agree who’ll do what without taking it outside. The problem with consensus is that, in an election, you achieve so much less than if you had primaries.

People in favor of negotiated consensus argue that primaries are expensive. In fact, the MUD is hinting that they have no money to put the primaries together.

Bollocks. The CNE has put together the event, and no one has ever paid for it, ever. Campaigns are expensive, yes, but the money you spend is not lost given than the actual election will occur only six months after. Money spent on the primary gives you name-recognition for the general.

Elections in Venezuela are about cut-throat campaigning. Candidates must assemble effective teams, be creative, resource-efficient, and above all, energetic. Campaigning is an 80 hour/week job. It is hard. Going through this process, we weed out the lazy candidates, and, oh boy, we have seen some lazy candidates backed by the MUD. Maximizing our chances of success by going through a selection process that tests possible candidates in doing what they’ll do on D-day … is ideal.

The other great thing for possible candidates and the primaries exercise is that they’ll build teams early on. They will try effective tactics. They get a practice run.

If a candidate fails to reach the electorate, then the consequence is that you’ll have another guy competing for the prize. With elections around the corner – September, say foreign chavistas – it gives you time to actually campaign and get to know your electorate. You spend primary season building your hardcore opposition support, and then you transition to capturing voters in the opposite camp. It allows you to split your campaigning strategy into two, well-defined distinct segments.

But the most important thing about primaries is the legitimacy they bring.

No one will contest your leadership because the people chose you to represent them. That’s powerful, the most basic essence of democracy. It has worked in the opposition before – nobody questioned Henrique Capriles’ legitimacy as leader of the opposition after he comfortably won his primary.

This is the fundamental thing that parties like VP and VENTE are promoting. When these folks go without primaries, people will see them as either contradicting themselves or worse, as hypocrites. Machado has attempted to straighten things, with little success so far.

So, if the benefits are so obvious why do we end up with this sub-par deal?

Simple, those sitting at the table making these decision lack legitimacy.

Regardless of their claims that these decisions were reached by consensus, the fact is that a majority inside the MUD decided to hold limited primaries, and people such as Machado and López were effectively silenced.

The powers that be seem to want to assure a post, but they fear the popular mandate. They want to fulfill their narrow-minded political agendas.

I don’t think this is the only factor. It pains me to say it, but I think laziness is also part of it. A big part.

The MUD still has time to right this ship. They should not claim that holding limited primaries was something everyone agreed to. And if that is the way it is going to be, efforts should be made to mend the rifts this decision has caused.