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Why, Sometimes, I Hate the BBC

By Alex Beech

03.12.05 | The headline says it all: "one-horse race". What democratic government would hold an election when only one party is running*? Yet that is precisely what will take place on Venezuela this Sunday, when only Chavez's candidates run for office.

In its latest article, the BBC claims that it "is almost certain that Mr Chavez's candidates are going to achieve a landslide victory - they were heading that way anyway, even before this week's election chaos - but now an 80% stake in the National Assembly looks plausible." Let's see if I understand Mr. Morsbach's logic: only one party is running, under an electoral process organized by a pro-Chavez electoral board. Yes - without a doubt, in a race with only one contender, that contender is sure to achieve "a landslide victory." Regarding his claim that "they were heading that way anyway." Another pause - Mr. Morsbach is not only a journalist, but a pollster and a psychic . (I wonder if he charges for readings, or if he only volunteers his services for the Venezuelan government.) He concludes that "now an 80% stake in the National Assembly looks plausible." Again, there's that notion of victory, of winning a majority. Could that be because only one party is running?

The big issue to watch, which Mr. Morsbach raises, is not who is going to win. Because one party is running - Chavez's. Therefore, the key to Sunday's election is how many people don't vote. Mr. Morsbach writes that what "privately really worries hardened 'Chavistas' - the name given to Chavez supporters - is that the abstention rate could be so high that the international spotlight could fall on the election process in Venezuela and that the results could be called into question around the world." Again, why shouldn't the spotlight fall on the election anyway, when only one party is running, when parties of every ideology, from right to left, withdrew their candidates? Isn't something seriously flawed and alarming already?

Any abstention above 70% is a fiasco - a gigantic flop.

On Sunday, we'll see if the majority really supports the government, as the government claims they do. If 70% of the country support Chavez, then at least 50% will go and vote for his party candidates. The MVR's "fear that even their own grassroots supporters may be lulled into a false sense of security and simply not bother to vote," is ridiculous, even when it's only their party that is running. Chavez has given the orders to vote; if his people really support him, they will. My bet is that the majority of those who refrain from voting on Sunday will be those who would have voted for the opposition.

My crystal ball tells that there will be no lines this weekend; if the BBC and The New York Times local reporters voted, perhaps there would be two or three people standing in line, ready to vote for the only party that is running: Chavez's party.

*To simplify the real issue, I have folded all pro-Chavez parties into the notion of "one party", since all pro-Chavez parties will take their lead from Chavez's MVR party in future decisions, including a likely constitutional reform allowing him to run for president as many times as he wants - the final step towards authoritarian control. (Did we think that Fidel was only helping him select his Dr. Evil outfits?)

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