Archive for April 14th, 2011

Date For Primaries Is Feb. 12th. 2012: Tell Me Why It’s Good, Tell Me Why It’s Bad

April 14, 2011

(Have we ever won an election with the current political system?…No… Then, Why do we want to change it?)

So, the LODO (Los Organizados Democratas de Oposicion), otherwise known as the MUD, have chosen a magic date for the primaries, February 12, 2012, or 02-12-2012, which is not the day the world will end as some claim, that happens to be 12-21-2012, a full ten months later.

Given the very limited experience in Venezuela with primaries to select a candidate, I am surprised at the vehemence of some of the arguments.

The main argument I have heard is that this is not enough time to project a candidate against Chavez. Well, let me remind my readers that in the best known primary in my history, that of Oswaldo Alvarez Paz as candidate of COPEI, which took place on April 25th. 1993, the candidate was selected seven months before the election and proceeded to deflate itself in less than two months. (Even though the primary was made to select the candidate for COPEI, that party allowed anyone in the Electoral Registry to vote)

Then, there is the AD primary to select between Luis Beltran Prieto Figueroa and Gonzalo Barrios the candidate for President. This one took place on September 25th. 1967, less than three months before the election. Prieto Figueroa surprised his party, winning 65% of the vote and 75% of the party’s “Seccionales”. The party decided Prieto was too far left to become President and divided in two. In less than three months Prieto went from front-runner to obtaining less than 20% of the vote in fourth place, with Barrios losing narrowly to Caldera 29.1 to 28.2%. Just think all that happened in that brief period of time.

In 1978, Luis Piñerúa Ordaz defeated Jaime Lusinchi in a primary held mid-year, only six months before the election (more or less, can’t pinpoint date), in the last primary held by Accion Democratica. He lost the election, despite having the full resources of Carlos Andrez Perez’ Government.

So, these primaries held much closer to the Presidential Election date than the proposed date by the LODO, proved to be quite dynamic and curiously, in all cases, the winner lost in the end, despite being ahead at the time of the primary.

So, it is not clear to me that this is “too late” or does not give the winner “enough time”, on the contrary, it seems that it gives the candidate too much time to blow up his candidacy, make mistakes or whatever. He or she may simply “peak” too early. Ask Irene Saez, front runner extrordinaire in the 1998 elections two years before they took place. As Chavez rose (He was not in the top three in May, by September he was leading), she dropped like a stone and various parties, including Causa R and COPEI simply withdrew their support. She got less than 3% of the vote.

Talk about peaking too early.

But in the end, primaries are supposed to give voters a choice, but also are supposed to give candidates a chance. A chance to show who they are, to get well known, to appear in events, project their image. Within that democratic idea or ideal, what matters is the exposure to the candidates in the primary, not that of the eventual winner. So, this would suggest the later the better.

Given all that, my feeling is that 02-12-2012, may actually be too early, not too late…

What do you think? Is this date good, or bad? Tell me why!

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