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 right. There 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.