Photo: AFP retrieved

“Municipal council elections? What are you talking about? I don’t know anything about that,” said one woman as she rushed to the subway.

Believe it or not, it’s election day today, with local councils supposed to be elected. Pollster Datanálisis said, a few days ago, that only 14.5% of voters say they are willing to participate in this forlorn vote.

The lady’s grim response isn’t entirely isolated. Later, a man around 60 years old, shrugged when we asked him if he’d participate in the elections to choose future municipal council members, an event set for Sunday, December 9. He shrugged and then said “I really don’t know anything. Who are the candidates?” he asked.

These elections have always had a poor turnout. A 60% abstention in this kind of event isn’t new. Councilmembers are the political muscle closest to the communities, yet they have the least public notoriety and promotion. There are no projections before or after they’re elected. And they’re the officers who must legislate on municipal matters (for example, if garbage collection fees are regulated, that must be discussed in the Municipal Chamber). Councilmembers must approve the budgets for mayoralties. Most of the population is oblivious to the municipal councils’ tasks.

Datanálisis said, a few days ago, that only 14.5% of voters say they are willing to participate in this forlorn vote.

Ramón Agüero—a nurse and candidate for El Recreo parish in Circuit 3 with San Agustín, San Pedro and Santa Rosalía—is well aware of the situation. He knows that he’s treading on unsafe ground, but he’s still trying to approach the communities of low-income areas in the Cota 905.

“I’ve met people, even chavistas, who are very angry about inflation. They ask for information on the competences and functions of councilmembers; some say that they don’t know anything about their municipal councils, about how the budget is invested. The services of water supply, garbage collection, sanitation and drainage are municipal responsibilities and citizens have the duty to demand a proper service provision,” he said.

Amidst the lack of information, apathy takes the stage. People who don’t want to participate argue that it’s about the National Electoral Council (CNE) and that it’s not worth it with the current electoral bases. A valid decision if it were made by 100% of the opposition. But once again, we’re on the matter of recovering spaces. A good example is what happened at the University of Carabobo, where the opposition candidate won against the one imposed by chavista governor Rafael Lacava.

In Caracas, Ramón Agüero is running for one of the 13 seats of the Libertador Municipality, along with other candidates from independent parties such as Ramón Beamont, backed by a group called “Soluciones”; Braulio Cedeño, representative of the transport sector; Mariángela González, with the slogan “United for Caracas” along with the parties Cambiemos, MAS, Avanzada Progresista, El Cambio, COPEI and the Ecological Party.

People who don’t want to participate argue that it’s about the National Electoral Council (CNE) and that it’s not worth it with the current electoral bases.

They’re taking to the streets on their own effort with the slogan “Votes and street.” They don’t want to yield spaces to the PSUV. Sadly, they don’t have citizen support. In fact, after monitoring some areas, we find that in El Paraíso, a parish that had a Primero Justicia councilman, is calling for abstention. This trend is repeated in other areas such as La Candelaria, Coche and El Valle.

An entirely different scene is playing in Baruta, Chacao and El Hatillo. The mayors of these municipalities split from their big parties to support the candidates. It was an alliance with citizen support and they’re backed by the regional cards validated by the CNE.

In 2017, the opposition won 28 town halls out of the country’s 335, and what these mayors seek to prevent is for their municipal councils to fall in the hands of madurismo. That’s what they call “recovering spaces,” and they’re applying it in places where the opposition rules, which is also valid, although they represent a minority.

“Not voting means yielding everything. In Chacao, we defended mayor Gustavo Duque, we couldn’t imagine ourselves in the hands of a chavista. We’ll do the same with councilmembers. If they don’t recognize them, we’ll fight,” said Rosa Díaz, a neighbor of Los Palos Grandes.

As shown by the testimonies collected near an entrance of the Metro de Caracas, Rosa isn’t part of the majority in this municipality. Many aren’t planning to vote, not even those who still support Nicolás Maduro’s regime. “I don’t care about voting. That doesn’t solve the economic problem,” said Iván Rangel.

Many aren’t planning to vote, not even those who still support Nicolás Maduro’s regime.

4,900 municipal council members will be elected on December 9 along with their respective substitutes. Out of these, 1,704 will be chosen by name, 685 by list and 69 from native communities. An important representation if we consider that they control the municipal exercise, the closest to citizens.

For what we’ve seen, abstention will take the day.

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