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Inclusion and democracy needed in Venezuela

By Michael Rowan, El Universal

How can an inclusive democracy be reborn from the ashes of exclusion and distrust? Or, how can civil society engage the constructive Chavistas and the indifferent ni-ni voters, to pull this country onto its feet, all together? Faced with this challenge, there are many individuals, political parties, and civic associations that respond instantly by saying 'I can do it.' But alone, none can.

No one individual has the prestige or weight to step forward with a message of reconstruction that commands the respect of the nation, even as an interim, transition president - we have no Nelson Mandela or Lech Walesa here. And no one political party, old or new, or no political pact, can assemble the good will and trust of the competing political parties, no less the ni-ni voters, no less the constructive Chavistas. And no group in civil society, whether citizen assembly or NGO, has the experience, capability or credibility to step into this breach and serve the interests of all. No, the "winner takes all" political culture of Venezuela is taking its toll, and it will murder Venezuela, unless everyone realizes that what cannot be done by one can, indeed, be done by all.

The solution is an all-inclusive democratic primary that attracts disparate voters, interests, and groups, binding them together in a democratic decision to find common ground for a new start. The more Chavistas and ni-ni voters are attracted to that primary, the better it is for the nation, because in a run-off election, the majority must prevail, and that means regime change. If Chavez wants to stand against the candidate and government program that emerges from that primary, in a general election, let him try, he will lose by a landslide. Venezuela can find its new leader and inclusive future through an open primary run by civil society, not the CNE, and where every vote is honored, every right is protected. The world believes in democracy and will support such a primary morally, technically and financially. There will be no way Chavez - or anyone else - can manipulate it. He will have no control over it. It will be the nation's primary, not his.

Michael Rowan's column is published every Tuesday

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