A supermajority kind of sucks too, though


Remember that feeling as a kid when you got a great toy for Christmas but it came without any batteries and you couldn’t get any because it’s Christmas day and everything’s closed? Somehow, I have this sense that come 7D, that’s how a lot of us are going to be feeling: we’ll have this shiny new parliamentary majority toy, but we’re not going to be able to do anything with it. 

There’s an all-too-familiar climate of triunfalismo arising from the lopsided advantage we have in National Popular vote polls. But as Mr. Uracoa reminds us at Distortionland, a 30-point lead in the popular vote can leave you with 88 deputies just as easily as it can leave you with 130…more easily, since to the extent that we pile on big majorities in urban areas, we waste our advantage in places that don’t bring extra seats.

Which is why I have this dark vision that after the elections we’ll be making great efforts to explain —on repeat mode— to a non-believing mass that a simple majority is not an electoral defeat, and that it doesn’t really suck. Or at least, that it sucks in the same way as a supermajority would.

As Emi explained in her post, a simple majority is only strong with the executive and judicial branches behind you (remember all the damage chavismo was able to do before diputado 99, when they were simple majority? or as they used to call it: absolute majority?). But you could say the same thing about a supermajority.

I talked with Constitutional Law professor José Ignacio Hernández about this, and Nacho makes one really good point: Even if we attain supermajority, the government has ways to neutralize the AN’s functions.

A quick example: imagine a MUD landslide that allows them to grab the 3/5 supermajority. The most likely scenario would be that the old AN will put forward a new habilitante for a couple of years. This, of course, would not be constitutional, but Venezuela. So, probably the first thing a new AN would do is nullify the old habilitante. They’d be acting according to the Constitution, and along the lines of what a serious parliament should do. Fine.

Then, the newly appointed TSJ would reverse the parliament’s decision de un plumazo.

Because, yeah, they will rush the TSJ appointments they’ve been holding, and most likely have them in place in that short time frame between the elections and January 4th, when the new parliament will be sworn in. As Alejandro and Carlos explained, “even if the opposition gets the much-coveted supermajority, it won’t be able to dismiss current Justices without an intervention from the Poder Ciudadano.”

Will chavismo try to set up parallel institutions it controls to run around its loss of the assembly? Of course it will. Do expect a Revolutionary Popular Congress chaired by Ernesto Villegas and based on the spirit of Chavez’s Plan de la Patria, to nullify the AN. It’s what they’ve done with every important institution they’ve lost to the opposition at the ballot box: no sense stopping now.   

Dorothy has it rightThere is no way to turn a win in the polls into a political victory without a canny, high stakes negotiation. It will take all the machiavellian genius of our sneakiest politicians to persuade chavismo to rein in the Supreme Tribunal and allow some kind of democratic governance to take place. 

This is why whether a majority is super- or not may no matter that much. Either outcome will provide MUD some much needed political leverage. A smaller majority that makes chavismo less paranoid and aggressive could even help in that regard.

Either way, our A.N. majority toy will come with no batteries. If we want to ponerle las pilas, we better ponernos las pilas and get a smart negotiating strategy in place.

The problem here is that given the current situation, the timing of complex flirting and political schemes may not correspond with the immediate actions needed to salvage the economy. But that’s another story.

Maybe it’s just the lawyer in me that can’t bear to give in to blind optimism. I would be doing a disservice to my profession if I answered the question “what do you think will happen after 6D?” without a big fat disclaimer that says: BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED.

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  1. This analysis is plausible, as the previous ones from Dorothy, Emiliana or Quico and Nagel. I do not think, however, that a “super-majority” will be achieved, for numerous reasons. But even in that scenario, it’s true that the Chavista freaking dictatorship will simply tighten the screws some more. The Boiling Frog Venezuelan experiement is reaching its final stages. They will hold on to power as long as they can before they all flee like rats, or try to blend in with the MUD and blame everything on the new “parlamento”. Then they will simply BRIBE the hell out of the new diputados, y listo el pollo.

  2. I agree with this – 3/5ths, 2/3rds, 1/2 humbug. Venezuela’s problems are not legal in nature, so whatever we can or cannot (in theory) do is beside the point.

    Still, we need to win big. But a win is a win.

  3. You are following too much your lawyer training. What happens after 6D will depend on the ability to use the new power (yes, political power) that comes from the fact the Opposition is MAJORITY. And this power if of course larger as larger is the % of popular vote.

    Imagine, Maduro imposes a new Revolutionary Popular Congress A new law issued by the new parliament dismisses this Congress. Will the TSJ nullify this law? No, if the assembly clearly threatens to request their resignation.

    This is not a legal issue. It is a power issue. Remember that Chavez got away with a constitutional assembly not in the Constitution, without having majority in the old congress and with an relatively independent TSJ. All because he used his power of having the majority behind him.

    Of course the new toy that comes initially without batteries has to be used with skill

  4. No estoy de acuerdo con lo de que “a smaller majority that makes chavismo less paranoid and aggressive could even help” porque creo que cuanta más paranoia más pronto caerán pero creo que, en general, hace un buen análisis y sus comentarios clarifican la situación. Salvando las distancias que haya que salvar, el problema es similar al de la policía que tiene que enfrentarse a los malandros dispuestos a matar y sin ninguna ley pero que está obligada a hacerlo dentro de unas normas y una ética si quiere seguir llamándose policía y no terminar siendo ellos mismos unos criminales.

    Es cuestión de entereza, paciencia, confianza en tus ideales… cosas en definitiva muy difícil de mantener con los hospitales, el transporte, la industria… funcionando solo al 30 o el 40% y un gobierno dispuesto a lo que sea para mantener sus privilegios pero sin ellas no veo como podrán salir adelante.

  5. I think you are all over-thinking this. A purely legal and constitutional transition has never been in the cards. The institutions of democracy have been destroyed, and will need to be rebuilt. Venezuela is not (and has not been for some time) under constitutional rule. The primary thing these elections will accomplish is to clarify for everyone the degree to which the population rejects the current regime. Note that this gets accomplished even if the regime cheats massively. It also sends the message to the regime that the status quo is not acceptable.

    Basically, this sets the stage for the coming transition. Whether that transition is peaceful or not remains to be seen. But, it is coming.

  6. I agree with Roy. The critical number is the MUDs winning percentage. It doesn’t matter much that Maduro and co. have rigged things to get way too many seats. The raw winning number will undermine the democratic legitimacy of the revolution.

    And you can’t run a “popular” revolution on 30% support.

    Once that sinks in, the alternatives will be North Korea or removal. And North Korea won’t work in Latin America any more.

    • Corea del Norte sí que funciona en el Caribe, en Cuba llevan 50 años de gobierno comunista y supongo que el chavismo se mira en ese espejo. No sé cuanto apoyo tiene el castrismo ahora pero supongo que bien poco y ahí siguen sin que por el momento se vea una salida. De todos modos no veo a los chavistas en el poder 50 años ni de lejos. En Venezuela todo el mundo se cree que vive en un país rico cuando “tan solo” es un país rico en recursos minerales. Sentirte rico pero tener que llevar la vida de un pobre es un desequilibrio insoportable en cualquier sociedad

  7. In my opinion the victory on 6D has no legislative purpose whatsoever. A (wide-margin) victory will be the piso politico of the opposition for negotiating a way out of this mess.

  8. No es hora de triunfalismos, y los análisis de los últimos días han sido excelentes, bien fundamentados, pero todos (palabras mas, palabras menos) concluyen en que esta gente no va a entregar.

    Les recuerdo los hechos de Abril 2002: que se hicieron, donde se metieron quienes ahora mandan con grosería, provocación e insultos? Fueron valientes? Fueron a buscar, arengaron para defender, se expusieron?

    Si se quiere decir que “CaracasChronicles lo dijo antes” parafraseando el eslogan de El Mundo (el vespertino), sugiero que escriban uno mas optimista, no porque se obtenga 2/3 sino porque el escenario que en el gobierno sean pura bulla TAMBIEN puede ocurrir, dados los antecedentes.

  9. Your scenario applies Chavista’s practices after electoral losses, but there is a HUGE difference this time, the economy is imploding! People are hungry, according to Fr. Moreno yesterday in El Nacional:


    So of course Chavismo WILL pull all those legal slight of hands but you still have to take extremely difficult and painful economic measures or do nothing and let it get worse. So the popular support for Chavismo will keep eroding in an accelerated way. Moreover Maduro is considered incompetent by all sides, including all stripes of Chavistas (spend some time in Aporrea). So if he comes up to the people wielding menacing economic measure and tells you “trust me it will hurt just a little but it will be for the better” would you stand around for it?

  10. “It will take all the machiavellian genius of our sneakiest politicians to persuade chavismo to rein in the Supreme Tribunal and allow some kind of democratic governance to take place.”

    I don’t think the issue is how good the oppo politicians are at negotiating. Is about what cards they are holding. If they have strong cards, they don’t need to be machiavellian geniuses.

    The strongest cards MUD has is a mixture of the bleak outlook of chavismo, and the personal safety of chavismo politicians. If the chavistas believe that a transition is very likely, they’ll want to make sure that they’ll not be prosecuted. In this regard, the USA indictments help. If they see that la revolucion is crumbling, they’ll start thinking about their personal future. They’ll need a safe haven here in Venezuela. As chavismo crumbles, the main worry for their leaders will not be politics, but rather their own safety.

    By the way, if historians get a hold of this blog 500 years from now, they’ll be very confused. “So these guys spent years writing about how they lost elections, and when they were about to win, they worried about whether winning made any difference?”

  11. For me a MUD win of any size will be good if they can attack the problems in Venezuela.

    First, freedom of the press. This is essential for a democratic transition. How big of majority does this take?

    Second, return transparency to PDVSA and government finances. This will go a long way to stopping corruption and government waste. How big of majority does this take?

    Third, force serious investigations into crimes. High-level officials are immune from the laws because they can stop any investigations. It is time for that to change. How big of majority does this take?

    Fourth, stop the food lines. Make food a priority over purchases of Russian weapons. How big of majority does this take?

    Fifth, fire Tibisi and reorganize the districts so everyone’s vote counts. How big of majority does this take?

    Sixth, return businesses to private owners. The government destroys everything it takes over. How big of majority does this take?

    Finally, bury Chavez’ corpse. Maduro will need to find another place to sleep but it is time to be truthful about Hugo Chavez and his destruction of Venezuela. How big of majority does this take?

  12. What do negotiations mean?

    First: accepting what power this will actually bring, instead of what it theoretically, W.E.I.R.D.ly (look up Quico’s W.E.I.R.D. article from a year or so back) should bring.

    Second: Figure out how to use that power to pressure chavistas into agreements.

    Third: Anticipate what power chavistas have, and what they will try to pressure us into, which we can concede on, which not, which are the most useful, considering timelines and the evolution of these pressures.

    Anything else is fanaticism.

  13. Have any rojo rojito negotiated once???? NO! Forget it. They will not negotiate never ever. “Even if we attain supermajority, the government has ways to neutralize the AN’s functions” This is the heart of the matter… They will do and twist whatever they want to get their goal, which is to stay in power. I really dont see how can anyone think they will give up so easily with just an “election” …

    On a different note PLEASE Do Not Feed the troll!

  14. I think the batteries are in the people who cast the votes. If the people casting ballots for change think that’s it, then that’s it. A vote. Mas nada. There is going to have to be broad-based, organized and sustained pressure to make a vote for change a change. If the pressure comes in the form of chaotic and unorganized acts of desperate self-help (i.e. looting and burning), its all over.

    As someone indicated above, if the bargaining power is there (i.e. unity, support), a negotiation need not be rocket science. These people understand power, and that’s about it.

  15. I think the unwillingness of those of us in the opposition to be quick to celebrate or get our hopes up flows from the whole string of pyrrhic, short-lived victories (2002 coup, 2007 referendum, etc) we’ve seen.

    It’s almost like we’re afraid of getting too happy because we are afraid of being let down. But we need to allow ourselves to celebrate a little. If we win, we need to harness that emotional energy to get some much-needed inspirational points for our side. We certainly need it.

  16. After no dakazo and with victory seemingly inminent, Toro’s learned helpleness has mutated to events beyond 6d. Is the way we venezuelans have to protect ourselves from crushing dissapointment


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