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Elections in Venezuela: treading the path to dictatorship

By Veneconomy

21.04.05 | This year there will be two rounds of elections in Venezuela, one for the municipal councils (August) and the other for deputies to the National Assembly (December), both of them representative bodies of crucial importance for exercising democracy in a country where the regime is verging on the autocratic.

The climate in the country as these elections are approaching is one of confusion and uncertainty. On the one hand, the rules of the game are controlled at whim by a National Electoral Council that is clearly biased in favor of the government, with four members for and one against. On the other, the political players in both bands (government and opposition) are showing signs that things are neither clear nor as they should be. On the government side, the Chavistas are publicly showing signs that they are in a state of chaos. The confrontations between the different contenders for the municipal and parish posts have reached extremes never seen before in the government coalition. Some grassroots militants have even requested the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to suspend the municipal elections scheduled for August 7, as they are of the opinion that their constitutional right to elect their representatives is being violated. No one doubts, however, that, after these skirmishes, Miraflores will crack the whip and single government-coalition candidates will be agreed upon for all the posts.

For its part, the opposition is repeating the same mistakes as in the past. It does not have a united strategic position and is dispersing its efforts among several different candidates for each of the posts. This was the same mistake it made in the elections for the Constituent Assembly, when the single candidates on the Chavista Kino (Bingo card) wiped out the numerous opposition candidates.

One thing is clear. These elections will be crucial for establishing the game rules that will apply for these and all future elections. Another risk being run at these elections is that one of the few remaining barriers to the government imposing a dictatorship in the country will be abolished. At the moment, the opposition has a sizeable number of representatives in the legislatures, but if it continues with this lack of unity and no clear message, the seats occupied by the opposition will inevitably fall into the hands of the government side, so finally closing the door to democracy in Venezuela.

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