Governors’ Elections: A Test of Unity

Last Wednesday, the opposition received a gift from the gods. Hours later, it was a house devouring itself.

CNE’s fraud blew up in its face on Wednesday: Smartmatic, the company in charge of our voting machines, blew the whistle on election results that bore no relation to what their machines registered. Almost in unison, Reuters broke a story on internal CNE data showing just 3.7 million people had voted by 5:30pm, implying that the vote would have had to miraculously double in just 90 minutes for CNE’s final tally to be true.

The opposition should’ve partied hard “I told you those number were made up! How do 4.4 million people vote in 90 minutes, in groups of 100? You were so afraid in the first place, you hid the election from the press!”

According to Saul Alisnky, “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” This was a good time to aim it at the government, to beat down the common enemy and give oppo supporters a much-needed morale boost, pushing the government into an irrational move.

But Wednesday caught the opposition with its pants down. Acción Democrática’s (AD) president, Henry Ramos Allup, announced that his party would participate in the upcoming governor’s elections. Hell, of course, broke loose. Leaders vented their frustration with each other, giving their supporters validation for their learned helplessness.

Let’s consider the arguments on both sides.

Why shouldn’t we go to elections? Well, they’ll be organized by the same CNE that just oversaw the ANC fraud. Accepting their authority for these elections would retroactively validate the ANC. It would undermine any efforts by the opposition to change the CNE’s rectores.

Besides, if only AD participates in the elections, they would surely win against chavismo. Other parties would consider this an unforgivable act of opportunism, or worse, betrayal.

And while this happens, the ANC looms large. The opposition could win the governor’s elections, to see the ANC remove them from office for some fairy-tale reason, or eliminating regional government altogether through a change in the Constitution.

Considering this, why on Earth should the opposition go to elections?

First, because their participation forces transparency into the electoral system. By having their own witnesses and auditors, the opposition could make sure that the result is correct.

Second, because if the government goes ahead with the elections and gets new governors without competition, the opposition will lose the few safe spaces they have left. Policing of opposition regions would go to the government, and the regional bureaucracies could be used to expand the system of political discrimination. 2005 all over again.

This is an impossible choice. Whatever they do, the dictatorship has a way to screw them. The thing is, both are reasonable courses of action. This could have played out as a civil debate at la mesa. Instead, we were treated to a cringe-worthy play.

It started with Ramos Allup on a Vladimir a la 1 interview, where he announced that AD had decided to participate in elections for governors.

This might seem like the sensato thing to do, but what about the coalition? I’ve got to agree with Ibéyise Pacheco here.

People from other parties were outraged, but no one more than the opposition’s firebrand, María Corina Machado.

The whole debate fell into the government’s lap. Just look at Maria Corina’s sentiment echoed by Diosdado.

Throughout this scene, there’s a worrying trend: the opposition uses “man’s most potent weapon” against itself. We see the flame of division, ignited by Ramos Allup and fanned by Maria Corina, used by Diosdado to roast marshmallows.

It’s unreasonable to expect permanent agreement inside MUD; they are not a hive mind. What we should expect is for them to keep their disagreements civil and contained, to take advantage of opportunities to punish the government, and to treat their followers with a surge of optimism whenever possible.

You’re on the same team guys, act like it.