Opinion – Latinoamérica21: More losers than winners in Venezuela’s regional elections

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The results of regional elections held in Venezuela, which saw the renewal of state and municipal executives and legislatures, did not constitute a substantial change in the country’s political scheme.

And while this is not good news for the opposition, the result is also not positive for the government itself.

In addition to some improvements, such as the temporary suspension of political prisons and the disqualification of parties, Venezuela’s electoral system is still far from being minimally competitive.

This was documented again by international election observers in their preliminary statement.

Venezuela is part of a hegemonic political system that maintains precarious structural conditions for any candidacy other than that of the official party.

Arbitrariness is common, as demonstrated by the inability of the National Electoral Council (CNE) to meet its own deadlines for publishing the results of governance in Barinas.

The declining electoral performance of Chavismo

Historically, regional elections in Venezuela do not arouse the same interest as presidential elections.

On many occasions, this has been capitalized on by the government, which has abused the state’s economic, logistical and communication resources to promote its candidates.

In general, abstention penalized mainly opposition candidates. However, in this last election, the abstention (over 53%) not only affected the opposition candidates, who ran divided, but also hit government candidates hard.

This suggests that, had there been coordination for opposition candidacies, they could have run for 14 governorships.

Of the country’s 23 states, the ruling party has won 18 so far, while the opposition has won three. On the other hand, of the 322 city halls, Chavismo won 205, while the remaining 117 were won by politicians not aligned with the government.

On the other hand, in this election, Chavismo obtained the lowest levels of support in rural and peripheral areas of the country, regions where it traditionally based its electoral strength.

However, today, the pandemic, humanitarian crisis and poverty hit people hardest, social recovery is more difficult and the government’s promise is less convincing.

Oppositions and their electoral reflection

Faced with this internal situation in Chavismo, it seems that its main strategic bet was not to improve its candidacies or renew its message, but to insist on dividing the opposition.

Officialism not only tried to influence the cleavage between voters and abstainers, but also between candidates running for office.

In this way, the opposition sectors ended up taking votes from each other.

Did the government fund these divisive campaigns?

We may never know, as under current electoral legislation campaign sponsors and contributions are declared to the CNE but not published.

The opposition coalition, Democratic Unity Bureau, the most voted option in the 2015 parliamentary elections, is now a shadow of what it was due to deep and public divisions in its leadership and militancy.

Since the call for these elections, the lack of coordination of communication, disorganization and, above all, the indiscipline in the internal management of their differences have eroded the credibility of many of their candidacies.

In this situation, a new party emerged, Força Vicinal, which in its first year of existence won the position of governor of the state of New Sparta, as well as seven city halls.

In addition to electoral discouragement and the fragmentation of the opposition, other factors weakened the opposition.

Erratic internal leadership, largely as a result of government harassment of political activism and difficulties in accessing funding, and the electoral despondency that Juan Guaidó’s own “interim government” has fostered since 2019 have contributed to the opposition’s dismay.

In this context, despite the slight victory of the ruling party, the results once again raise the possibility of rearticulation within the opposition, and some of its spokespersons once again mentioned the need for strategic unity around electoral mobilization as a mechanism. of political aggregation.

In short, the results of the regional elections could represent a turning point in the rearrangement of the segments that make up the opposition with a view to future scenarios.

However, citizens who do not migrate remain demobilized, unassisted and trying to make the best of their lives in the midst of a deep humanitarian crisis.

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