The Primaries of Apathy

There are primaries this Sunday for governor elections in Mérida —and you probably didn’t know, or care, like most merideños around.

Carlos Paparoni, a lawmaker who got shot with a marble during the recent protests, Carlos Ramos, a UNT heavyweight and head of Merida’s recall referendum campaign of last year, Lawrence Castro, a Voluntad Popular lawmaker and Ramón Guevara, the adeco who, according to a SMS I just received, is the “candidate the students support”.

These four guys are hoping to win the MUD primary elections this sunday, September 10th, becoming the anointed candidate to battle PSUV in the infamous, and still not-programmed, regional elections.

There’s a campaign and all. Paparoni ‘s popularity is getting strong in El Vigía, Ramos assures us that UNT will deploy all its strength for his campaign and Castro says he’s ready to take the country back, promoting the chavista-sounding #EldeLeopoldoEnMerida. Two weeks ago, Guevara asked the discontented opposition to “have faith and see these elections as the beginning of political change”. Last week even Ramos Allup came to Mérida, in support of his guy.

It only takes a quick look to their Twitter feeds to see pictures in poor neighbourhoods with seniors and kids, reminding everyone how bad abstention would be.

On the street, though, the vibe isn’t electoral at all. No posters, radio jingles or flyers, no one seems to care about who’s getting elected. The big news in town is not the primaries, but a vaccination campaign for cats and dogs.

Because even after primaries, it’ll be hard to tell who will rule Merida next. MUD has lost the people’s trust, and it can no longer do the single thing it used to be good at: keeping the opposition together.

The four MUD candidates represent, for some, classic sectarianism: Jesús Rondón Nucete, AKA “Chuy COPEI” (this is 100% legit), former Governor from 1990 to 1996, denounced the fact that MUD didn’t let him run in the primaries, because he isn’t representing a party of the group. He’s running all the same for governor as an independent, joining outcasts like Esteban Torrealba (MAS), Arquímedes Fajardo (COPEI) and Alirio Araque (NUVIPA).

On the chavista side, Jehyson Guzmán, former president of the Universidad de los Andes student federation, Higher Education Minister and current constituyentista, hopes to replace Alexis Ramírez as the regional pawn. He won’t have it easy; even with considerable abstention, Mérida is one of the strongest bastions of the opposition, partly due to Ramírez’s terrible, repressive administration.

But you don’t to have to be a Champion when the guys you hope to beat are too busy taking votes from each other or, worse, trying to convince their unmotivated voters that winning this election will actually mean something more than a moral triumph. I’ve never cared so little about elections as I do now, and I wouldn’t even know who the candidates are if I wasn’t writing this post.

And MUD’s attitude isn’t helping.