Archive for December 3rd, 2007

The day after: Analyzing the results and the political future of Venezuela

December 3, 2007

A Chavez blow up doll lies on the victory platform that was never used in downtown Caracas

I
have a case of electoral hangover. It was tense last night, but the
tiredness can’t be justified by the short hours of sleep, it is more
associated with the tension and expectations of last night. I feel
tired, but there is also certain exhilaration with the victory. Thus,
it is time to take stock and look at the meaning of what happened
yesterday and what may mean to the future of Venezuela:

The Results:
It is my understanding that the No lead is wider than what was reported
by the CNE, between 4 to 5% points. Curiously, there have been no more
reports from the Electoral Board since the first one last night, once
again proving what a joke the best electoral system in the world has
become. A full 24 hours after the polls closed and we do not know
officially even what abstention was like, other than unofficial
numbers. Thus, it would seem premature to say anything about the
numbers in detail. When they are available I will do that.

However,
at first glance it would seem from the polls that the NO should have
won by more than what was reported if abstention was truly around
44-45%. I am hearing that this was in fact the case and that as part of
the agreement with the military and Chávez, the first report was
supposed to show a small difference, which will widen as the remainder
10% of the vote is counted.

Behind the Scenes:
Multiple reliable sources are saying that having Chávez accept the
results was no easy task. In fact, a good source told me that at some
point the CNE President almost announced a Si victory by a slim margin,
which was stopped only because General Baduel threatened to come on
stage and call the fraud if she did this. In the end the military and
Baduel prevailed in defending institutionality. Baduel and the military
reportedly played a key role in forcing Chavez to accept his defeat or
otherwise the military will call it a coup.

Chavez
in some sense acknowledge this last night, when he refereed to his
“dilemma” and the fact that he no longer had one. Chavez tacitly
admitted that he had known the results for three hours and that the
results created a dilemma for him and that even if he tried to refer to
the Electoral Board as an independent institution, in the end it was
his decision. He went as far as mentioning that he even had long
consultations with his Ministers and the Cabinet.

In
a country with true independent institutions, whether or when to
announce a result should have nothing to do with the Executive branch.
The Electoral Board may have the courtesy of informing the winners and
losers right before the announcement, but Chávez clearly proved why
there are no independent powers in Venezuela and why institutionality
is so weak: he fails to recognize where he should stop meddling and
interfering with independent branches of power. It was not his dilemma,
he was interfering with institutions.

It
also shows why our democracy is weak. If the military has to act at
each tough junction in our democratic life in order to restore
institutionality, it means that our politicians do not yet understand
what a functional democracy should be and act like.

This
lack of institutionality extends to the CNE which acted in a very
partisan way during the campaign and which last night did little to
restore complete trust in its functions by unnecessarily delaying the
release of the results and barring the way of the totalization room to
the witnesses of the No vote. This was totally undemocratic and in
violation of the law. Moreover, the long times to report suggest either
they are not doing their job or the automation system is useless. In a
country with true institutionality, everyone should be asking for their
resignation. They performed poorly and by doing so, continued raising
suspicions about their biased role in the process.

Chavez’ Speech:
Not gracious at all. First of all, he should not have extended himself
so much. He should have said he recognized the victory of the No and
not go into more details, least of all when after one hour he said that
he would keep it short. Those abroad should remember that while Chavez
was speaking, all TV and radio stations were forced to carry his
speech. The supporters of the NO, the winners in this race, were
egoistically denied watching their own side celebrate.

Chávez
also tried to turn the loss into a victory, which is valid, but
certainly not very believable for a man used to winning elections
handily. The voters said they did not like his proposal, the voters
rejected his socialism, the voters rejected his indefinite reelection,
but Chavez still said that he would not remove one comma from his
proposal and there will be other times for that fight. Thus, Chavez was
showing how he likes to impose his will without discussion, rather than
use the tools of democracy: negotiation, discussion and concession in
order to reach a consensus. He cannot accept an opinion different than
his; he cannot admit different ways of accomplishing things. Despite
the evidence of the No victory, he plans to continue to push his
project intact, which may be his demise.

It
was good of Chávez to accept his defeat. I confess I never believed he
would. In fact, I still think he may surprise us in the days ahead.
Recall how the days after the April 2002 events Chavez was contrite
after coming back. He apologized to everyone, he spoke of a consensus,
he asked for forgiveness, only to come back with vengeance to stop any
investigation of what happened those days, to destroy PDVSA and its
workers and return back to his Cabinet the same political operators
that were with him during the days leading up to the tragedy of April
2002.

Thus,
as Baduel suggested last night, Chávez is likely to push the whole
agenda of Constitutional reform using other means. In fact, as was
discussed numerous times, most of the things in the Constitutional
reform proposal did not need to be there. Many were somewhat irrelevant
except to have Chavez have more control of the institutions, but
economically and socially he still has an Enabling Bill to pass many of
the proposals rejected by the voters via decrees, which require no
approval or even being known by the people.

Clearly,
Chavez did not see last night’s votes as a rejection of what he
proposes but a temporary setback for his plans. That is bad news, as he
will certainly will try to press it forward again in the future.

Why the No won:
There were numerous factors. First, the proposal was not only clearly
illegal but became more and more complex and questionable as time went
on. Voters had rejected the indefinite reelection from day one, but
other parts of their proposal were attractive to some sectors because
of their populist content. However, the administration always seemed to
be in a rush and as more components were added, the sense that Chavez
and the Assembly wanted to push it through without discussion became
dominant. To many, the proposal was long, complex, and unnecessary and
in the end raised more doubts than it created answers.

The
students played a key role in the process. The student movement got
involved at levels orders of magnitude above what they had done in the
last nine years on concerns over the future of their autonomous
universities and the cancellation of the concession for RCTV. The
students were well organized, had a wide reach and had a message of
conciliation, which was truly important. Even more importantly, they
have families and Chavez did nothing but insult their kids.

The
state of the economy also played a key role. There have been shortages
since June, which have only accentuated in the last few months. Despite
claims by the Government that milk supplies will be normalized shortly,
to this date it has simply not happened. Add to that the periodic
disappearance of various items; some of them permanently, other
sporadically and there is a widespread belief that something is not
right with the Government.

Inflation
has also played an important role. While Government ministers continued
to say the new financial transaction tax would have no effect on
inflation, the CPI reached a whopping 4.4% level for the month prior to
the election, with food inflation topping 7% for the month of November alone
!
Chavez should fire the genius that came up with the idea of this tax
immediately before the referendum. So should be those in the economic team that have managed
to screw things up so badly.

In the end Chávez has two problems in terms of managing the economy: Management and Ideology. Management
because his team is always picked on the basis of absolute loyalty to
the revolution and not ability or even knowledge. Ideology, because his
infinite belief in an incompetent and corrupt public sector, combined
with scaring away investment while trying to increase the supply of
goods are simply incompatible. Thus, the Government continues direct
assistance programs, which create demand, but supply can only be
satisfied via imports. The day oil drops, even by a small margin, the
whole system will simply collapse.

The
opposition political parties played a significant role only in that
once they felt the tide created by the students, they fell in step with
them, letting them take the lead and joining them. In the end, only
Escarrá did not publicly call to go out and vote, about all other
political groups calling for people to go vote NO, creating more
momentum than expected for the No.

Podemos,
Baduel and Chavez’ former wife also played a significant role,
particularly in giving credibility and validity to voting against
Chavez even if you were Chavista. Baduel seems to have player a larger
role within the military, Podemos in driving out the vote and Mrs.
Rodriguez playing the role of victim In the end going forward, it is
Baduel who clearly seems to have the larger role. He played it right
and won.

The implications of the victory:
First of all it was a great victory, this can never be minimized, no
matter how rough things may be going forward. There are many edges to
the victory. First, it was a victory for institutionality even if it
was rocky at some points. This is the main victory achieved yesterday,
as the loss will impose a limit in what Chavez can and not do going
forward, even if he tries.

Second,
there is an important victory in knowing that it is possible to defeat
Chavez. That is very important, as up to now Chavez has had an image of
invincibility whether by honest vote or not, that has now been
destroyed with the victory of the NO. Chávez tried to turn the
referendum on the reform into plebiscite on his rule, he lost it. This
is very significant. With 44% abstention, 28% of the population voted
for the SI, 28% of the population voted for Chavez, that is precisely
the number of hardcore Chavismo in polls. 72% of Venezuelans did not
support Chavez or his reform.

The
implications of this are very significant. For the opposition, it will
mean that abstention and participation will be much more important in
the future. People will no longer say they are not participating
because Chavez will cheat or it is hopeless. This will become a
significant difference in the future (Even if there was cheating in the
end!)

For
Chavismo the victory of the NO is also very significant. To begin with,
it is no longer taboo to go against Chavez. You may go do it and if the
Government does not create a new Tascon/Chavez list, it may encourage
others in the future to go and vote against the President.

But
more importantly, to those that hold important positions within
Chavismo, there is also an important message implied: Chavez is not
there forever and if one day Chavismo has to leave Government they may
be called to account for themselves and their actions and decisions in
power (As well as their wealth!)

But
even more significantly, Chavez has been weakened by the loss. It is my
belief that in the upcoming days Chavez will continue to press his
agenda forward as he stated it yesterday. Some of his supporters at
high level will follow him, other will not. This may create a deep
division within Chavismo, as those that have their own personal
ambitions and understand that Chavez lost with his proposal, will
decide to split from his side and start their own movements. In the
end, the balance of how many are left on his side will decide how
strong he is in the end.

Chavez
could only gain strength by doing exactly what I don’t expect him to
do: Reach out to all Venezuelans to establish a common agenda. That is
not his style, as he has proven over and over and proved once again
last night saying that his proposal had not been approved “For now”,
trying to relive events and a phrase relevant in a different context,
which happened long ago and which, while relevant to him personally,
are not considered by most Venezuelans to be part of their history,
least of all to the students protesting in the streets who were still
young kids when Chavez staged his bloody coup in 1992.

To these students, it is the reality of what is happening today that matters and as Baduel said in his Op-Ed Saturday:

“Venezuelan
society faces a broad array of problems that have not been addressed in
the eight years Mr. Chávez has been in office, even though the present
Constitution offers ample room for any decent, honest government to do
so. Inflation, threats to personal safety, a scarcity of basic
supplies, a housing shortage and dismal education and health care are
problems that will not be resolved by approving this so-called reform.”

That
is reality also for the students and their families and not a now
irrelevant fight between Chavez and Carlos Andres Perez or Accion
Democrática.

Baduel
is calling for a Constituent Assembly in the belief that the results of
the referendum require a new National Assembly in which all parts are
represented. Others believe this is unnecessary and that Chavez can be
recalled under the 1999 Constitution in 2009. Chavez will likely try to
press his socialist agenda, very similar to the proposed reform, but
via the enabling Bill as he can’t introduce another Constitutional
reform. The latter will in the end determine how the future of
Venezuelan politics develops. Given the deterioration of the economy,
Chavez may be playing a losers game, as dissatisfaction by the voters
will only grow in the upcoming months and his popular support as well
as that of those that surround him, may vanish, leaving him almost
alone, holding a losing hand.

Democracy wins, Chavez reform proposal defeated on both questions

December 3, 2007

No wins both questions with 90%, there were two blocks of proposals, both defeated

Chavez’ block: NO 50.70% SI 49.29% Difference 1.21%

Assembly’s block NO 51.05% SI 48.94% Difference 2.06%

Democracy wins, autocracy loses

Chavez lost 3 million votes since last year

I am exhausted, good night and thanks…

No wins, Chavez speaks in defeat and this is all I can think of

December 3, 2007

(When I first posted this, I thought everyone would recognize it, but it turns out this assumption may be as outdated as Chavez’ “For now” among the young, so to them, here is the source: Revolution, by The Beatles)

You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright Alright

You say you got a real solution
Well you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well you know

We’re doing what we can
But when you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright Alright

You say you’ll change the constitution
Well you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well you know
You better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don’t you know know it’s gonna be alright
Alright Alright

No vote defeats Chavez in Venezuelan Constitutional Referendum

December 3, 2007

At 1:12 PM, the Venezuelan Electoral Board, the CNE, just announced that the No won 50.7% to 49.29% , and Chavez’ proposed Constitutional reform has been defeated!!!

Have no words at this time…more when I get my composure back. This simply means too much…

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