The international media has noticed there might be a bit of a thing in Venezuela tomorrow, and the set-up pieces are now coming out in numbers. See if you can spot the common themes:
New York Times: Venezuela’s Economic Woes Buoy Opposition Before Election
The once powerful Chavista movement has shown itself to be greatly weakened by the country’s economic debacle and Mr. Maduro’s leadership. Rallies for the candidates of Mr. Maduro’s United Socialist Party have been much more tepid than similar gatherings in the past under Mr. Chávez.
And Mr. Maduro, despite saying repeatedly that he is confident of a victory on Sunday, has foreshadowed defeat.
During his weekly television program on Tuesday, he called the possibility of an opposition victory a “nightmare” and said that if “we were to lose Sunday’s elections, life goes on, the fight goes on, and the revolution would find new paths and a new character.”
Even if the opposition does gain control of the assembly, their power to improve people’s lives could be severely limited. The PSUV currently controls every branch of government and state institutions.
If the opposition win, even before new legislators are sworn in, current lawmakers could extend the term and scope of enabling laws that allow the president to bypass the assembly, or the country’s high courts could simply determine laws passed as unconstitutional.
NPR: Socialist Government Could Be Headed For Election Defeat In Venezuela
It is unclear, however, whether the elections will be free and fair. Organizations with years of monitoring elections, like the Organization of American States and the Carter Center, have been barred from observing Sunday’s vote. The Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, wrote a 19-page letter to the head of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council detailing his concern that the playing field between the opposition and the government has not been equal during the election campaign.
Washington Post Editorial: A turning point for Venezuela
If the votes are counted fairly, the Democratic Unity Roundtable should win a comfortable majority of seats, giving it the ability to counter the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
What’s worrying is that Mr. Maduro is vociferously proclaiming an intention to violently resist this result. “If on Dec. 6 the right wins, prepare yourselves for a country in chaos, for violence,” he said a week before the vote. “If this happens, military comrades, you will see me in the street with you. I will never back down.” That was just one of more than a dozen similar threats issued by Mr. Maduro, who is not on the ballot.
Moisés Naím for The Atlantic: A Dictatorship Masquerading as a Democracy
Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, recently announced that if the opposition were to gain a majority in the National Assembly in elections this Sunday, “We would not give up the revolution and … we would govern with the people in a civil-military union.” To ensure that no one would accuse him of not being a true democrat, he clarified that “we would do this with the constitution in hand.” The president conveniently ignored the small detail that the constitution does not have any provision for a “civil-military” government, nor does it give the government the option of disregarding the outcome of an election. What Maduro did stress, however, was that if the revolution fails, “there will be a massacre”—a threat he has repeatedly made throughout the campaign. He usually follows such threats with reassurances that this violence will not ensue since it is impossible for opposition candidates to win enough votes for a legislative majority, which Maduro’s party has enjoyed for the past 17 years.
The Venezuelan political opposition is not leading because of a shift in voters’ intention, but because a great number of the traditional supporters of the Chavista government are likely to stay away from the polls next Sunday, analysts say.
“The greatest threat to the government is that its supporters hide and don’t get out to vote,” said Oswaldo Ramirez, director at ORC Consultores, a political consulting firm in Venezuela. “They may still say, ‘I am a Chavista, but I don’t want to vote for you now because you’re responsible for this economic crisis.’ “
Mr Maduro has rejected all proposals for international monitors, leading to complaints from Latin American leaders, the EU and Amnesty International.
Even the head of the Organisation of American States, which normally is tolerant of Venezuela’s government, sent an unprecedented letter to the head of the electoral committee last month, warning that “transparency and electoral justice is not guaranteed”.
Foreign Policy: Is This the End of Chávez’s Venezuela?
Facing a political insurgency that threatens to break its hold on power, the PSUV is, according to Salanova, using every trick in the book: The party is allegedly using public funds to bankroll its campaign, deploying ambulances and public vehicles to distribute PSUV literature, handing out food and scarce goods in poor neighborhoods to curry votes, and broadcasting pro-PSUV cadenas nacionales — programming that all television and radio stations are required by law to run — almost nonstop while the opposition struggles to get any media exposure at all. Government-run television stations have ignored opposition candidates, and the government has cut back paper supplies to newspapers that support those running against the PSUV. As a result, many opposition candidates have relied almost entirely on social media to get their message out.
Tensions have been rising for weeks. Regional opposition politician Luis Manuel Díaz was gunned down after a rally in Guárico State, in central Venezuela, a few days after Pizarro was confronted by armed men during a walkabout in a neighborhood here. Opposition leaders and supporters warn that elections may be unfair, a concern bolstered by Maduro’s rejection of international observers from the Organization of American States.