Thursday, December 08, 2005

The way to victory is doing whats right, not what´s expedient 

Today I was walking down the Avenida Mexico in western Caracas when I ran across a center for Mission Ribas, which is one of the governments large educational programs. Entering it I was able to talk to several pro-Chavez militants including one who was the regional coordinator for Mission Ribas. In talking to them for a couple of hours one topic came up that for me was fascinating. And that is why more Chavez supporters didn´t show up to vote on Sunday. The response I was given was that a great many of the party´s militants, including the ones I was speaking to, were quite upset about the fact that all the candidates for the pro-Chavez parties were handed picked by the party leadership rather than by the members of the parties via primaries! This led many of them to abstain from get out the vote efforts.

At this, I almost keeled over as this is a problem that I had spoken to before in this blog. Not only is it unethical and undemocratic that candidates be simply named rather than chosen through elections it is also ultimately self-defeating. Just as countries need a democratic political system as a mechanism for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and competing ideas so too do political parties. By not allowing for internal elections parties such as Chavez´s MVR and its allies like PPT risk creating a sense of exclusion amongst their own membership which in turn leads to apathy, demoralization, and splits.

And in fact that is precisely what has happened. The banner headline on todays edition of El Mundo is about ¨Dissident Chavismo¨. In fact a number of pro-Chavez candidates who were not selected as candidates and ran as dissidents actually won. And this despite the morochas which made it hard for smaller parties to be successful. What did these candidates complain about and base their campeigns on? Precisely the fact that there was/is a lack of internal democracy within the pro-Chavez parties which is proving to be very harmful.

This wasn´t always so. In last August´s municipal elections the pro-Chavez candidates had been selected via internal primaries. [please note during all of this that NONE of the opposition parties have chosen any of their leadership or candidates through internal elections]. So why the big step backwards on this issue? I don´t have an answer for that. But I do know that it most definitely a big step backwards and that unless it is rectified soon it bodes ill for the future of the pro-Chavez political forces.

Further, there really is a moral to be drawn from all of this. And that is doing what is what is right rather than what is expediant is not only the morally correct thing to do, in the long run it vastly increases the odds of success. There is no clearer example of this than what has happened with the Venezuelan opposition. Rather than doing what is right by trying to change Venezuela through the democratic process they have consistantly tried to take short cuts to power by trying coups and general strikes. They have been so impatient that they have always been looking for ways to short circuit the democratic process rather than work within it. Not only has this been completely unethical and reprehensible it has also been precisely what has lead to their demise as a force on the Venezuelan political scene.

Chavismo itself needs to look at that experience and draw the right conclusions. Handing picking candidates might have seemed like the best way to get get the best people in the National Assembly but it wasn´t. Rather it served only to alienate their own supporters and deprive the Assembly members of legitimacy within their own parties. Because of the weakness and ineptitude of the opposition this error went unpunished. But Chavismo shouldn´t count on being so fortunate in the future.

Again, doing what is right, not simply what is expedient at the moment is the best course of action not simply because it is what is morally right but also because it is what will be most effective over the long term. There are people within Chavismo who definitely need to internalize that lesson.


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