Why Are Venezuela's Regional Elections So Crucial?

The regional elections (Governor and States Legislative Council) are a key importance issue in Venezuela’s current political situation. We might be tempted to treat them as trivial if they were just new elections after so many others. But that's not what they are.

Under current circumstances, a new electoral contest between Chavismo and the politicians of the United Democratic Table (MUD, in spanish) opposition parties coalition is very different from a contest over mere quotas of administrative power.

  • The events prior to these elections and those now happening inside and outside Venezuela explain the significance of the election in mid-October. For that reason, it is highly appropriate to explain its relevance.
  • These elections are being held in a context of sanctions and the imposition of a narrative that Chavismo is a "dictatorship", inside and outside Venezuela. It is paradoxical but also not unusual in Venezuela's extraordinary politics that the MUD, whose leaders have spread the "dictatorship" spin at home and overseas, have rushed to register candidates, thirsty for power. By that one act of political neurosis they dismantled their alleged "non-recognition" of the State and official institutions that they proclaimed for much of 2017.
  • This is relevant for that the open electoral process wipes out MUD's efforts to sketch out some alleged dictatorial control of Venezuela's institutions.
  • For its part, the Trump Administration is weighing in against Venezuela’s economy and is signaling a military intervention. The US Congress is currently discussing legislation to give “humanitarian” cover to any US intervention in Venezuela. This is the Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act of 2017.
  • Given the moves in that direction, holding the elections may seem irrelevant for the promoters of intervention. But it is worth bearing in mind that in terms of settling domestic disputes and legitimizing Venezuela’s democracy they are absolutely crucial. The US needs a policy disconnected from domestic politics and the regional elections contradicts that.
  • Regional elections will take place in an economic context of sabotage and blockade. Major popular demands figure in them involving very serious disgruntel levels along with great expectations. MUD hope to win new political space in these elections whereas for Chavismo the task is to hold on to political spaces already won.
  • MUD coalition's violent actions through 2017 ahead of these upcoming elections make clear for Chavismo that it cannot afford to lose any political space or give in to the plans of anti-Chavista forces. No need to imagine the horror people living in States like Táchira or Mérida would face with a MUD victory, who would then suffer from the absence of police forces in their regions if due to a change of administration, that they couldn't rely on facing already the continous and prolongued acts of violence that have been consolidating in both governates.
  • The anti-Chavista forces have worked out how to use every municipal authority, every public office and entity they control to encourage the elements among them committed to violence. During street blockades they also use the institutions they control to promote chaos, anarchy and confrontation. Both MUD and Chavismo are categorically clear about why they have to win the regional governorships. Their respective visions of peace versus violence are extremely clear.
  • The current governorships controlled by the opposition are celebrations of anarchy, incompetence, and perennial tortoise-paced public administration. Those governorships are self-evidently inoperative, devoting their time to political scheming. As often as not they argue unjustly that "we don't get assigned resources because we're the opposition" to justify abandoning their voters and their State's inhabitants to their fate.
  • This argument is relevant in that the MUD is clearly determined make public policy unworkable in every possible context. The clearest example of this is the way they rendered inoperative and then abandoned the National Assembly itself. The MUD seek to win governorships so as to render them unworkable and disconnect them from the overall system of public policy. They only want control of governorships so as to get hold of resources to use in destabilizing the country. Their objective is to spread every kind of misrule, chaos and discontent.
  • It is a foregone conclusion that in any State where a Chavista governor gets replaced by a governor from the MUD coalition, social policy initiatives, like the different Missions, will get cut back and slowed down. These social coverage programs will lose institutional help from regional governments, whereas Chavista governorships make available to these programs personnel, infrastructure, funding and political support.
  • As they have shown repeatedly, the MUD is completely against the attention to people's needs made possible by the social programs and others of strategic reach and relevance, like the Local Food Production and Provision Committees (CLAPs). That is the main reason why winning governorships is vital for the MUD, since they hope to make social programs benefiting people in very adverse economic conditions unworkable.
  • They know very well that the social programs strategy has mitigated to a large extent the effects of the current economic situation for very large numbers of socioeconomically vulnerable people. That is why they want to get hold of these political spaces. This is very relevant in that the MUD needs to create economic chaos so that discontent among people marginalized in that way will feed their electoral chances.
  • Regional elections will measure the country's political health. But in relation to another context they are also an element that shows how well Venezuela's democracy is doing and how political parties are out to win votes rather than dodge bullets. The other context in question is the international one. The powerful people working on a US intervention in Venezuela don’t want the elections to be publicized, nor that the MUD opposition are participating actively in them. This is a dangerous reference point for them.
  • Next elections will clear the way for scenarios which may be either stability or further confrontation. But they should put a political stop to the violent escalation still trying to push Venezuela into war.

Translated by teleSUR English.

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