ChavezPSUV power grab, sends his coalition into disarray for the regional elections

July 25, 2008

While I can be critical of the opposition, I am rejoicing as to the way
Hugo Chavez has so far managed his unity candidates for the upcoming
regional elections. In fact, if you look for a trend, it seems as if
the opposition is converging day after day in more candidacies, while
Chavismo seems to diverge more and more.

This is obviously very good for the opposition, but once again, one
should try to rely on the potential of your strategy and not on the
failures of the enemy. Much like in the December referendum. We want
the opposition to win, not Chavez to lose, even if I will take either
of them with a smile. I would just seem too easy to coordinate a
successful strategy, but I digress.

By now, it is clear that the unity parties are not very happy. Chavez
created the PSUV to eliminate them and instead has found an inordinate
amount of resistance and a huge split in candidacies. This without even
considering the impact of Podemos completely separating itself from
Chavez PSUV party a few months ago and becoming part of the extremely
heterogeneous Venezuelan opposition.

Beyond these divisions, Chavez trying to impose his will has also
created splinters within his own PSUV party, leading to multiple
candidacies in states like Carabobo, which are certainly going to
threaten and damage the chances of the official candidate versus the
opposition.

Unfortunately, Chavez watches closely what polls are saying and may
decide to be more democratic accepting dissenting candidacies that
have a better chance or simply finding a way to buyout the will of
those candidates that know have little chance but may be the cause of
the PSUVs defeat on Nov. 23d.

Because people should not forget that while Aug. 5th. Is the deadline
for registering to be a candidate, people can withdraw until days
before the regional elections and/or throw the support of their votes
towards the candidate of their choice in November. Thus, what we are
seeing today, may have little to do with the perspectives on Nov.
20th., as Chavez will negotiate, bribe and use all of the powers of his
Government to get his way.

For the opposition, the downside is that it may be too much in the
daily headlines, particularly its candidates, as they try to decant
their number before Aug. 5th. Thus, decisions like that of William
Ojeda to quit the race in Ocariz favor are simply music to my ears.

Meanwhile, Chavez divisive act may not only split the vote, but also
keep people away from the polls, as the beloved people are getting
fed up with his lack of accomplishments. And this represents a huge
advantage for the opposition, as Chavez has done extremely well in
elections when he is a candidate, but whenever he hasnt been a
candidate, abstention has been huge, giving him a smaller fraction of
the votes than if he were running directly. Unfortunately (for Chavez),
Venezuelans are extremely unreliable when you poll whether they will go
to vote or not, which will make Chavez intelligence on the possible
results of November quite difficult, even if they can measure well the
likely outcome.

Thus, the opposition has to walk a fine line, trying to resolve its
conflicts quietly and making sure it does not burn out its candidates
in the noise of the internal fights. Meanwhile, it has to hope that
PSUV continues to divide officialdom, while Chavez travels and attempts
to prop up his damaged international image.

The opposition also has to take advantage of the fact that Chavez
biggest advantage, high oil prices providing him with an ample supply
of funds, is really not playing a major role as Minister El Troudi has
imposed a policy of restraint in spending (which is good!) which has
slowed down the economy, making the average Venezuelan feel like things
are worse than they used to be a year ago. Such a policy can only hurt
the President, making you wonder whether Chavez fully understands what
is going on in the economy (or whether he has been told about it by El
Troudi!).

Hopefully, we will see more Ojeda-like acts in the next couple of weeks
that promote true unity in the opposition and that even in the likely
event that the bans or disqualifications stand for the regional
elections, the opposition will be able to score a victory in November
from which the autocrat will never recover.

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