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Venezuela: Thinking through the opposition's strategy

By Aleksander Boyd

London 23.04.06 | Venezuela will have presidential elections December this year. To date there are 4 known, more can always appear, opposition candidates that will participate in the race namely: Julio Borges, Roberto Smith, William Ojeda and Teodoro Petkoff. Some people think that, since none of them have got any chance at beating the incumbent if the opposition does not get squarely behind one single candidate representing the universe of Chavez's foes, primaries are needed, in order to elect democratically who this candidate shall be. Sumate, the electoral NGO, has proposed to organize and run the primaries, in which any person registered in the roll can vote.

To me this business of pretending that democracy in Venezuela is fine and dandy is, not only testament to the selfishness and denial of some politicos, but irresponsible. The act of voting in Venezuela, in the present circumstances, makes no sense. Hugo Chavez, having developed the perfect and unauditable electoral machine, will never loose a Smartmatic-run election again. Ever. The European observers' report gives account of the impossibility of auditing the e-voting machines for the National Electoral Council of Venezuela (CNE), having purchased from the machines vendor all operating software used, does not allow third or independent parties to scrutunise it due to "commercial reasons." As Jorge Rodriguez announced in London October last year "from 2006 on, the CNE will be absolutely independent from the technological point of view." Thus it becomes a joke to participate in elections or, sadder still, it legitimatizes an utterly unfair and rigged system.

As of today, Venezuela does not have electoral processes in which the will of the electorate determines who reaches office. On the contrary, there is so much distrust in the CNE and its authorities, that not even supporters of Hugo Chavez could be bother to go vote. Last December 4 17% of electors cast their votes; ultimately less than 10% were valid, as disgruntled civil servants retaliated against the systematic campaign of threats to which they were subject to by high officials of the Chavez administration casting null votes.

Moreover prior to the election it was demonstrated, beyond any doubt, that the Smartmatic voting devices keep the sequence of the vote, which compromises in fact the secrecy of it. With the precedent of the Maisanta database and the chronic violation to human rights that resulted from its use, most Venezuelans reject outright participating again in elections.

It is in this environment, totally stacked against them, that the fantastic 4 think of giving Chavez a run for his money. Allow me to laugh at such surreal, detached and idiotic dream. The Quixotic stance will only serve Chavez's purposes.

So instead of giving speeches about what the future will be should any of them win, how about challenging Chavez to return to manual voting as done in truly democratic nations? If polls are to be given any credibility, Chavez is meant to have anywhere between 50% - 80% support, why the fear then? The campaign theme ought to be "what are you afraid of Hugo Chavez?"

Accion Democratica, of all parties, is the only political organization that seems to have understood that in this instance the opposition has the upper hand. And the negotiations with the regime ought to start by demanding, that's right, demanding the government to abide, upheld and comply with current electoral legislation, or else Chavez can replicate one of those elections whereby his Cuban master runs against himself and, surprise, wins with 100% of the votes! It is most unfortunate that some, for whatever reason, are willing to dance with a dying devil.

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