Elections in Venezuela
New Challenges and Threats Hover Over the Bolivarian Revolution, 14 December 2005
After several attempts at deposing the government of President Hugo Chávez various right wing political groups decided to withdraw from the parliamentary elections that took place Sunday, December 4. Approximately five hundred contenders, of a total of more than five thousand parliamentary candidates, representing a little more than 8% of candidates, decided to abandon the electoral contest.
In addition to the withdrawals from the elections, six opposition parties out of a total of four hundred or so received no more than 2% of the partisan vote. Some of these parties, such as the AD (Social Democrats) and COPEI (Social Christians), represent the most traditional sectors of Venezuelan politics and this time experienced a reduction in voter preference. Likewise, the desertion of Primero Justicia from the liberal right will leave the ensemble of right win sectors involved in previous attempts at overthrowing Chávez’ government almost entirely extra parliamentary.
Without doubt, the leadership of right wing sectors, that threaten to create a serious crisis of legitimacy for the government of President Chávez, represents a serious risk to the prevailing democratic system in Venezuela, which could even attract scrutiny and questioning from the international community. Nevertheless, the government counts on an indefinite amount of socio-political capital, which proponents of a coup with their violent strategies dare not challenge. Indeed, the Venezuelan people have not yet spent all of the energy and power with which they could react should they see their rights and victories achieved in the last ten years threatened. Thus far, the Venezuelan people have demonstrated their fortitude and capacity to mobilize when they put their lives on the line during the coup and the managers’ strike. The opposition knows that time is not on its side because while it lacks a plan and strikes blindly into the air popular organizations grow, develop and multiply.
The right’s electoral abandonment also seeks to strengthen its confrontational strategies to radicalize the next presidential electoral contest in 2006. This is occurring because oppositional sectors have ended up without viable strategies that could ensure an effective questioning of the government or even the possibility of reverting turning to conspiracy and coup. In an exhausting array of democratic and daring paths, the right has found itself without options while the democratic sectors of the centre have left as a manifesto their incapacity to proclaim themselves serious and valid spokespeople before the Bolivarian government.
On the one hand, these sectors, trapped between the dynamic forces of the revolution and the stigma of right wing conspirators, have seen themselves overcome by a rhythm that does not leave space for their ambivalent positions. On the other hand they have demonstrated their inability to even pretend to represent the interests of the popular sectors.
The elections yielded a result similar to previous parliamentary elections in terms of the popular vote, such as the 2000 elections in which there was an abstention rate of 67%. In those elections all of Venezuela’s political parties participated leaving the precarious position of right wing parties exposed, a situation that has not improved today. For the right that governed almost half a century it was preferable to abandon a contest it knew was lost than to face an electoral tragedy.
The mayor of Caracas, Barrueto, affirmed that, “in spite of the levels of abstention, in this election the percentage of participation exceeds historical voter tendencies and in Caracas participation doubled, to almost 33%.”
According to the minister of Sports and Culture, Aristóbulo Izúris, for the right and the United Status that have already tried different scenarios, like the coup d’etat and the managers’ strike, all that remains is to try to create a situation similar to Haiti.
Now more than ever the government of President Chávez can rely on the people mobilized in the context of the electoral contest. However, and this the president knows beyond a doubt, it would be naive not to contribute to more organization and development of social movements and political formations that rest on support for the process. The people’s organizations have a historic opportunity to grow, strengthen democracy and expand their role in their own social and political development and in the strengthening of their conscience as actors and builders of the revolution that they support on their shoulders and have defended with their lives.
The Venezuelan right, as the right of America prepared it, has turned over conduct of politics to the United States. This has produced a political break from which the right will not be able to recover unless it reactivates its conspirator tendencies, which will spur public rejection. The Venezuelan people want peace and tranquility and whoever gambles on confrontation will be crushed by a force that seems to rest but does not sleep.
At the international level, the Bolivarian revolution counts on the backing and sympathy of vast sectors of public, democratic and progressive opinion. The role that the international community can play is tied to the efforts of the Venezuelan people. This context can and should motivate these broad sectors to reinforce the vastness of the initiatives to which one day state governments and institutions will provide political and moral support through a process that requires and deserves more than beautiful words and greetings of solidarity. The Bolivarian Revolution cannot abandon to indifference a humanity that survives on few hopes of liberation and “truly existing” reduced alternatives.
It is time to free ourselves of presupposed and twisted visions. The Bolivarian Revolution has demonstrated its shrewdness, vision and courage in continuing its process and confronting its detractors. The revolution has been capable of constructing itself against the dominant tendencies of the historical time that witnessed its birth. This new challenge can only strengthen the chosen path, be it the path of elections or the path of building its power, or better still through a combination of both. Its unexpected incursion only validates the maxim that history has surprises in store for us that not even the most lucid analyses can anticipate in advance.
Caracas diciembre 4, 2005