Some are losers and some are winners in Venezuela’s regional elections

November 25, 2008


While I am satisfied with the performance of the
opposition yesterday, it does not mean that I am happy. Perhaps the most
important message from yesterday was that there were no real clear winners.
Some people scored victories, other losses, but not one group managed to do it
all.

To start with there is Hugo Chavez. He lost in that the
results of yesterday’s races should stop him from looking for another
referendum to change the Constitution so that he can be reelected forever. The
numbers simply say is not worth his time to even try it. In fact, if the
opposition did not do better it was because it was not united, but they will be
united if Chavez proposes again that he should be able to perpetuate himself in
power. Tonight Chavez suggested that the people could ask for such a
referendum, suggesting that we are likely to see another proposal in 2009. He
will suffer another defeat if he tries.

Chavez was also a winner, because he managed to stop the
opposition from winning beyond its traditional strongholds, even if it did
well. Chavez was a winner because his party the PSUV, managed to win a lot more
Mayoral races than the opposition. There is no other way to interpret that.

And last night, Chavez also looked like a winner,
accepting the victory of the opposition in certain states and respecting it.
Not speaking in a forced nationwide “cadena” , but from his party’s
headquarters, appearing conciliatory. But this all changed today when he went
back to his usual self, being aggressive against some winners and disrespecting
the people that voted for Carlos Ocariz in the Sucre municipality of Caracas.
As usual, the gentle, nicer Chavez seems to have a twenty four hour lifetime in
a country asking for some peace.

The opposition scored a victory also, in that it gained five
states and the Metropolitan Mayor, winning where 42% of Venezuelans live and a
little bit more than that in terms of voters. But the opposition lost too, in
that it appears that it did not gain as much as was thought in terms of municipalities,
but the numbers are not all in.

The opposition also lost, because it could have scored a
much larger victory if it had presented a more united front in places like
Bolivar and Yaracuy, where it could have won. But it was not meant to be, the
little caudillos and outdated politicians that hang on to what little is left
of their popularity and who placed their interests above that of the people,
hurt the opposition too much.

Chavez also lost, because he seems to lose in urban areas
and he also loses big where the middle class lives. Paradoxically, Venezuela is
basically an urban country, but Chavez loses in urban areas, while the
opposition seems to make no inroads in rural areas. Both groups should reflect
on this.

Oh, but there were some huge losers, people like Andres
Velasquez, Claudio Fermin, the Lapi family from Yaracuy, Aristobulo Isturiz,
Rojas Suarez and William Davila, who hopefully will never again run for
anything more important than their condo board.

On the Chavismo side, the Governor of Miranda State
Diosdado Cabello lost his reelection, a big blow to the aspirations of the man
once considered to be Chavez’ successor. Perhaps there is a lesson there for
other Chavista Governors elected last night, it is not all about politics, you
also have to work hard for the people.  Not rush to inaugurate some public works infrastructure the
week before the election, even if they were not completed. The people may b naive,
but not dumb.

And speaking of big losers, the so-called dissident
Chavistas did not win a single Governorship, despite the polls indicating they
could win as many as four. In one, Chavez’ own state of Barinas, the loser, another
Chavista, is claiming foul saying he has copy of all the results and he won and
suggesting the CNE violated its own rules when it announced the victory by
Chavez’ brother even before it had the required 85% of the tally sheets. He
claims he can prove and for once, it is nice to see a fight like this between
two Chavista forces and have the opposition not be involved.

As for winners, it was also like Night of the Living Dead,
with Ledezma rising from his political ashes to score a victory that seemed
quite difficult months ago when Leopoldo Lopez was banned from running for this
office. And Henrique Capriles, despite his dullness, was able to fill the shoes
of Enrique Mendoza who was also banned as way of stopping the opposition in
Miranda. Chavez clearly understood that he needed the bans in Miranda, the
Metropolitan Mayor and Tachira, but it did not work, all that work and strategy
went for nothing, all three places went to the opposition alternates, even if
none could match the excitement of the originals.

But the biggest winners in my opinion were the Governor-elect
of Zulia State Pablo Perez and the new elected Mayor of the Sucre municipality
in Caracas Carlos Ocariz. The first one, because he becomes Governor of
Venezuela’s largest state by population and his dynamic, young and fresh face,
with no connections to the past will be quite visible. He speaks well and will
ride his popularity on the structure left by Manuel Rosales there.  Ocariz on the other hand, will become
Mayor of much-neglected Sucre, an area ignored for too long and where hard
working Ocariz should be able to make things better for the people with the aid
of his fellow Mayors of the Metropolitan area, from which he can copy a lot
ideas and models. In Perez and Ocariz, we may have some of the leading future
leaders that the opposition so sorely needs.

Finally, the old parties are dead and Primera Justicia and
Un Nuevo Tiempo have consolidated their existence as the leading parties in the
country. The rest are largely irrelevant even if COPEI won Tachira. Perhaps it
is time for all the splinter groups left in the opposition to join these
groups, choose the one you prefer, ask for democracy and start working the
streets. This election does show that hard work (Trabajo de Hormiguita) pays
off, ask Ledezma, Ocariz, Capriles and Falcon if this is not the case.
Venezuela needs more politicians like that and not what I call living room
politicians”, which the opposition is full of. 

And don’t forget that winning this races gives the
opposition not only power and the possibility to show they can do a better job
for the people, but it also gives them a power base of resources to compensate
the overwhelming domination by Chavismo in the use (and abuse!) of resources
and the media to promote their cause.

Hopefully each side will understand what it gained or lost
in the regional elections. That may be the key to Venezuela’s and their own political future.

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