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martes, diciembre 06, 2005

Election results

So, with the opposition parties withdrawing from the elections at the last minute, Chavez's party, the MVR (5th Republic Movement), appears to have increased its seats in the National Assembly to 114 on Sunday. The remaining 53 seats were picked up by other parties which support Chavez. Through its own actions the opposition has given up all representation in the National Assembly.

Greg Wilpert at Venezuelanalysis has an excellent dissection of why the electoral boycott took place and what it may mean for Venezuela's political future:

The opposition's main argument is that it has lost all trust in the CNE and is demanding its resignation as a condition for its participation. While it may well be true that the opposition does not trust the CNE, there are many other guarantees in place to make sure that the vote will proceed cleanly, such as over 400 independent observers from the Organization of American States, the European Union, and from various other countries around the world. Also, all political parties are involved in every step of organizing the election.

Finally, the CNE conceded to numerous opposition demands, such as manually auditing 45% of the paper ballots cast and eliminating the fingerprint scanners. So, if the technical arguments about not trusting the fairness of the vote are so weak and if the opposition stands to lose so much in the upcoming vote, then what other reasons could it have for boycotting the vote?

There are several alternative motivations for the opposition's action. The first is the result of a simple cost-benefit analysis. All opinion polls leading up to the vote indicated that it was quite probable that pro-Chavez parties would win a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. The opposition probably reasoned that faced with the choice between participating and having a minimal voice in the legislature or no voice and a de-legitimized legislature, the latter option would be preferable in the long run. Part of this calculus was that the opposition is convinced that abstention will be high, thus increasing the likelihood of successfully de-legitimizing the election process. . . .

One can find another piece of evidence for the opposition's strategic reasoning in the fact that the first party to declare its boycott of the vote was Accion Democratica, a party that theoretically had the most to lose from non-participation, but which ran no campaign whatsoever in the weeks leading up to the election. In general, opposition parties campaigned extraordinarily little, but AD did not seem to post a single campaign poster. In other words, no matter what the outcome of the negotiations with the CNE, it seems AD never intended to run in the elections. It was all a charade in order to snatch a strategic victory from the jaws of certain electoral defeat.

And on what may happen as a result of yesterday's elections:

As stated at the outset, the most likely short and medium term consequence of the opposition's boycott will be the disappearance of the opposition. . . .

In the medium term, it is to be hoped and it seems quite probable, that a new opposition will emerge, partly from within Chavez's ranks and partly from old opposition ranks that had nothing to do with the opposition's failed adventures of the past six years. With the emergence of such an opposition, hopefully, Venezuela will finally be able to return to a more "normal" give and take between governing parties and opposition, something which has been lacking nearly completely ever since Chavez was first elected in 1998. Unfortunately, there are likely international consequences that will interfere with such normalization.

Just as it did in Haiti and Nicaragua, the Bush administration will no doubt use the December 4 opposition boycott to discredit and de-legitimize the Chavez government, regardless of what the international observers have to say about the vote. . . .

A second and perhaps more dangerous consequence of the boycott is that it sets a precedent for the rest of Latin America. There are seven presidential elections coming up in Latin America in 2006. Events in Venezuela could tempt opposition parties in these countries into making a similar cost-benefit analysis as the Venezuelan opposition made and cause them to calculate that de-legitimizing the electoral process in their country is preferable to facing near certain defeat at the polls. Such a turn of events would mean a dangerous weakening of democracy throughout Latin America for many years to come.

Read the full article here.

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