In a few days, Venezuela will again have the eyes of the world looking its way. On December 6, more than 19 million voters are eligible to choose 167 deputies for a new National Assembly, to chart the country’s course.
It will be the 20th electoral process to be held since Chavista forces assumed government power, and although the record shows that these 19 votes confirmed support for the Bolivarian Revolution, with 18 victories and one loss, the coming election is expected to be the most difficult to date.
At stake is mathematical control of the legislative body, which will be won by whoever captures the largest number of seats. The country is highly polarized with the two blocs, the revolutionary Chavistas and the opposition oligarchy, both intent upon winning the important ‘50% plus one’ in the elections.
The outcome will quickly bring consequences for the future of the country. On the one hand, a majority in the hands of Chavistas offers the assurance that the Bolivarian Revolution, and its response to the demands of the poor, will continue.
On the other, if the right wing gains government power, this will lead to the launching of an open attack, a boycott of any action taken by President Nicolás Maduro, as the first step in a parliamentary coup to remove him from office, to create the conditions for the dismantling of the current government’s social project.
The conclusion is clear. Winning the Assembly means controlling the legislative branch, which is key to government power. It is the legal body which can legitimize or frustrate the President’s intentions.
The particular complexity of this process lies not only in the parliamentary majority at stake, but in the circumstances which surround the campaign, beyond what is customary in this type of election.
For some time now, a strategy of destabilization has been developed and implemented in Venezuela, directed toward undermining its economy and encouraging dissatisfaction within the population. The private sector, financed from abroad, has created shortages of food, toiletries, consumer goods and a wave of speculation-driven price increases which have rapidly and drastically raised the cost of living.
Moreover, a sudden drop in the international price of oil, the nation’s principal export, has impacted the availability of hard currency for the stable development of the country, and limited the government’s options in efforts to effectively respond to the economic war being waged by the local oligarchy and its foreign accomplices.
The revolutionary government has organized resistance to these attempts at destabilization in an exemplary fashion, continuing the implementation of its Plan for the Homeland. Priority has been given to social investment with the consolidation and expansion of social missions; construction and reparation of housing; increasing pensions and the number of beneficiaries; improving public transportation; and other programs serving the people.
Also undertaken, and moving forward, is strong action to address citizen insecurity and the paramilitary threat, and to advance the development of productive means to assure the country’s economic sovereignty and self-sufficiency, and reduce its vulnerability to boycotts by private corporate monopolies.
Nevertheless, it cannot be ruled out that the discontent of an important part of the electorate could have an impact on the elections, and put a brake on revolutionary forces, which in response have resorted to an alliance, the Great Patriotic Front, to build as much unity as possible and maintain support for the Bolivarian government in the National Assembly.
Led by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the bloc includes within its ranks candidates and members of 18 progressive political organizations. The motivation of supporters is critical since the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) is hoping for a low voter turn-out that could be advantageous to its candidates.
As far as the opposition’s expectations go — despite internal disagreements, the departure of several leaders and the arbitrary selection of candidates — the goal is not so much to increase the number of votes they have traditionally received, but to reduce the Bolivarian margin of victory.
In any event, given the 18 lost elections, the right wing is not banking on a fair victory at the polls, and is prepared to follow the same script used previously to denounce the results as fraudulent, and organize a violent response, as they did in 2014.
This is an attitude which they do not even attempt to hide. Previously, the opposition simply ignored the National Electoral Council (CNE) document in which candidates pledged to peacefully honor results. Now they refuse to sign, even with the new modification including the Union of South American Nations’ (UNASUR) observer mission.
“On alert, people,” said President Nicolas Maduro with good reason, on November 24, when he condemned the posture taken by the opposition coalition, insisting, “We must work for the electoral victory and we must work for the victory of peace,” in a clear appeal to caution, given the sad lessons learned last year when streets were barricaded and lives lost. He reiterated that the government will not allow the peace to be disturbed, the people hurt, or the democratic exercise of one’s vote impaired.
For now, the electoral campaign continues, with the Patriotic Front actively mobilizing its ranks, while the opposition enjoys the not so subtle support of the media, with anemic public displays of support.
CNE leaders are busy, preparing and checking the registers and technical mechanisms — all thoroughly audited, with no problems noted; conducting fairs and publicity to ensure understanding of the voting process; and supervising campaign activities to enforce strict adherence to established norms.
Also working in several locations around the country is the first contingent of the UNASUR observer mission, to be completed on the 27th, with 50 observers from 12 countries — impartial, experienced and prestigious experts, from a variety of ideological and philosophical backgrounds, but without the interventionist attitude of those preferred by MUD.
Campaigning will continue through December 3, followed by a silent period, until the people make the legitimate decision on December 6.
Many are anxious for the date to arrive, but we may be obliged to wait a few more days, since despite the revolutionary government’s commitment to democracy, and the country’s world class electoral system, Venezuela knows the opposition is desperate, and without the slightest justification, is already shouting, “Fraud!” and surreptitiously making other plans.
(November 27, 2015)