Ever since Chavez became ill, rumors began suggesting that the Venezuelan Presidential elections were going to be earlier than they were supposed to be, in order to help Chavismo. Presidential elections have usually been in early December in Venezuela and the rumors had always been in that they would take place in March 2012, a full nine months before expectations. How this was supposed to help Chavez was never too clear for me. People suggested that by then Chavez would be elected and his “successor” would be the VP and if something happened to him the VP would take over…
Except that the law does not say that. The Constitution (Art. 233) says that if the President is not able to continue within the first four years of his Presidency, Presidential elections have to take place within thirty days. Thus, this would seem to go against Chavismo remaining in power, as if Chavez had no successor, imagine holding elections within thirty days of him being able to continue with an opposition candidate that recently ran against Chavez, against whomever Chavismo chooses within a very short period of time. (This Article is absurd anyway, the Constitution (Art. 67) also says that candidates have to be elected by in internal elections of the parties. Imagine the President dying or disabled and within thirty days holding primaries and then holding the Presidential election. Ridiculous!)
The only reason to hold the elections earlier that would favor Chavez, in my mind, would be to limit the continued deterioration of the country and his popularity. The argument that holding the election in March would hurt the opposition because its primaries would be in February did not have much credibility in my book, the opposition could easily hold them earlier.Time would be short, but I have always thought that time works against the opposition not in its favor, given the fact that it has limited financing compared to the essentially unlimited financing and resources of the Government for its candidate. Imagine months of a daily campaign by the Government media against a single opposition candidate.
But that there was something to the desire to hold the Presidential election earlier in time was proven by the fact that it will take place on October 7th., an unusual date historically, which is also problematic given that voting takes place in schools, with high schools scheduled to start (They wouldn’t!) a week earlier.
There was no explanation for the earlier date, the choice is a mystery in my mind. The only possible justification was that they wanted to hold the elections for President, Governors and Mayors on three separate dates. But why they would want to do that is also a mystery to me. I agree that they can not all be on the same date, too complicated, too many choices for voters. But it certainly seems to work against Chavismo to hold the Presidential and Gubernatorial elections. on different dates.
Let me explain:
Chavez can win or lose on October 7th. In either case, if Gubernatorial elections were held on the same day, he would carry the same number of Chavista candidates for Governor on his coattails. But if he loses, his followers will be on a disarray before the December elections and they will likely get fewer Governorships. If he wins, I don’t think it will increased dramatically the number of Governorships the Government Chavismo while Chavista ones depend on the funding and power from Caracas and the Big Man.
But there is more. By holding the Presidential elections in October and Governors separately in December, opposition Governors will continue to hold their jobs until that election and will campaign for the candidate (and use their treasuries!) for the campaign. If they had to run their own individual campaigns separately, the opposition would be more dispersed, less unified, as regional leaders would be thinking about themselves first, the MUD candidate second.
So, what gives?
I just don’t know. It is a mystery. In fact, the whole thing even seems logical, if you wanted to separate the three elections, this is what makes sense. Maybe you could have tweaked it to have the Presidential election the third week in September to interfere less with the school year. But this is just about right.
I still believe that the best scenario for Chavze, whether ill or well, was to have a long period between the opposition primary in February and the Presidential election. If he was well, more time to go around the country destroying his opponent. If he was ill, more time to recover from the eight to ten chemotherapy treatments he is certainly to have in total in the next few months and then capaign and destroy the opposition candidate. If he was gravely ill, more time would also allow him to anoint his successor and help him be liked as much as possible, by having lots of time. But shortening it? Just did not (and does not) seem to make much sense.
As far as I can tell, the only advantage of advancing the date, is that there will be more time between the Presidential election and the day the new President takes over. More time to burn documents, erase hard drives and get rid of the evidence.
That’s about all I can think of.