Given the prior experiences of 2017 and 2018, we can predict with some certainty what will occur on December 6th. When the polls close that day, the Chavistas will celebrate a triumphant landslide. This will allow them to take control of the National Assembly.
Venezuela held elections in 2017 for a Constitutional Assembly, and again in 2018 to reelect Nicolas Maduro as president. On both occasions, the Chavistas constructed and displayed their narrative of political success.
At the time, those of us making the rounds of the polling centers could verify the scarce flow of voters. We also noted the State-party machine effort [around those centers] to get people to vote, for which there was a compensation.
December 6th promises a repeat of this already familiar story. There’ll be controls on communications in the form of interrupted internet service, content blocking, orders not to report the high abstention rate. Together with this, we’ll see the activation of a party machinery fed by State funds and technical capacity.
If 30 percent of the registered electorate votes, that would be surprisingly high, given the reigning discouragement and disinformation.
In truth, none of this will matter. The song about the Chavista triumph on December 6th has already been sung. We’ll have to see what percentages and quotas of power are left to the other party forces. In any case, there’ll be nothing outside the determined scale.
Chavism has organized and pushed this voting with the clear goal of taking control over the National Assembly. This is the only branch of power that has thus far evaded them.
That said, in truth we should turn our eyes to the 6th of the following month. We should look towards January 6th, the day after the new Parliament and its new directive body takes power.
I believe there are three areas we could put a question mark on. The first question in the box is: What will happen to the current body of deputies to the National Assembly? They were the last legitimately elected deputies, in 2015. Now they will remain, in my view, in a political, legal and institutional limbo.
It’s not enough that Juan Guaido, the current Assembly president, has declared they’ll stay firm and continue meeting as a legitimate parliament. The real question remains whether what’s left of this dismembered democratic coalition can undergo a healthy revision of their strategies. This would entail an analysis of the tactics they followed between 2019 and 2020, with Guaido as their head reference.
After January 6th, will Venezuelan society and the parties that supported him in 2019 and 2020 once again back Guaido? [He has had the support as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela by some 50 countries.]
A second area where I see serious doubt is what we’ve generally come to call the critical branch of Chavism. These are leaders and organizations which, inarguably, hold little weight. Still, it’s a group that has mobilized to take part in the December 6th elections (unlike most of the opposition).
These groups decided to launch their own candidates for the December election. They’ve done so using a strategy that symbolically separates them from the power that Nicolas Maduro represents. Given this, I ask myself if they’ll obediently accept new impositions from Maduro at Miraflores palace.
It’ll be a very interesting challenge for these deputies, if any of them win and end up being sworn in. We’ll see if their identification with Hugo Chavez, leads them to position themselves as an alternative to Maduro.
In the 90s – I was a journalist at the time – a tiny parliamentary fraction of the Causa Radical party managed to make a lot of noise. Their impact went beyond the Parliamentary agenda that the “Democratic Action” party and COPEI imposed during those years.
We’ll have to see if the strategy of this group goes in that direction after January 6th. Clearly, this also depends on the capacity of these political groups to mobilize and care for their voters. They must make sure they’re not pressured by Maduro’s PSUV party or blackmailed at the doors of the voting centers.
Finally, the great question is: How will the international community respond to the new National Assembly and its directive body? These will be sworn in on January 6th. We can predict a drumbeat of waiting until Joe Biden takes possession of the US government on January 20th.
Donald Trump’s administration was at the forefront of the current international strategies. These failed, since Maduro continues in power. Given this, it’s probable that there’ll be a period of readjustment once Biden comes to power. He will first begin to put in place his strategy of rebuilding the Atlantic alliance. He’s expected to emphasize Washington’s relations with their historic allies in Europe.
Currently, Trump’s government is the only one that has expressly declared it will continue recognizing Guaido as interim president. They plan to continue this even after January 6, 2021. We’ll have to see what steps and direction the major Western countries adopt, once the Chavista takeover of the National Assembly is complete.
*This article was originally posted in poliltikaucab.net.