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Venezuela's opposition: the challenges of a union

From | Veneconomy

21.09.05 | At long last the opposition parties have managed to get together on the issue of the nominees for the National Assembly elections on December 4th. This union, made up of at least five of the parties running against President Chávez, gives the impression of being far from perfect, a bit tardy and rather wobbly, but at least it is a step in the right direction, away from the anarchy that had been prevailing since the failed recall referendum in 2004.

It is now that the opposition bloc will be facing its two greatest challenges: One, doing battle to achieve transparent elections, in keeping with the Constitution and the laws. Then, once this has been achieved, comes two: convincing all those people out there who don’t like the government to go vote en masse.

To guarantee a transparent process the demands must include, at the very least, elimination of the so-called “twin lists,” that the Permanent Electoral Register be cleaned up and audited, that the draw of the names of the people manning the polling stations take place in the presence of all the parties, that neither the electronic list of voters nor the fingerprint machines be allowed, that the electronic voting machines not be on-line while the polls are open, and that all the paper ballots be counted manually.

The international observers are supposed to guarantee compliance with these requirements, and they have said that they will withdraw if the National Electoral Council fails to comply with their requirements. What many analysts fear, however, is that if a few of the demands are met, the observers from the European Union, given the interests of their governments, may not be steadfast enough to keep their promise.

In dealing with the biggest challenge of all – getting the citizens behind them – what the opposition campaign should do, in addition to insisting on transparency, is focus not so much on promoting its candidates, but on whipping up the massive and active interest of the people, before, during and following the election.

Will the new united front be strong and courageous enough to stand up to an omnipotent CNE? To do so, it will have to overcome political and commercial interests of its own and of other players, forget the rhetoric and, if its demands are not met, take a step back and pull the rug of legitimacy out from under the government.



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