Sunday, February 19, 2006

If there isn't an election there will be a referendum 

If the opposition knows nothing else, it knows how to read polls. And all the polls, from Datanalisis, to Alfrede Keller on the opposition side to Datos and North American Opinion Research on the pro-Chavez side show Chavez easily winning re-election. He is invariably 30 to 40 points ahead of any potential oponents.

Of course, the same was true of the legislative elections last December - the polls showed the pro-Chavez candidates likely sweeping to victory. So rather than contest elections it was sure to lose the opposition (or the U.S. embassy) came up with the novel idea of just boycotting the elections. I suppose the idea is you can't be said to lose if you don't participate.

Although the presidential elections are 9 months away the opposition leadership is already threatening not to participate. I haven't heard much in the way of coherent reasons why they wouldn't participate - but coherence isn't one of their strong points. Further, how much difference does it make if parties that only seem to represent, at most, 20% of the populace pull out? Not much, although it is an anoyance and it is an attempt to deligitimize the government by claiming it isn't the product of contested elections.

So all things being equal the government would prefer that the opposition parties participate. But it has no way to force them show up and vote. Actually, maybe it does. Chavez is well known for out of the box thinking in his new electoral idea sure fits that pattern. The idea which he discussed today is that if the opposition doesn't run candidates for president, and there therefor isn't an election, rather than let the December 3rd go to waste they will hold a referendum on allowing Chavez to compete for re-election indefinitely. That is, while he is currently not allowed to serve more than two terms, the referendum, if approved, would allow him to serve any number of terms.

So the opposition by not showing up would not only ensure themselves of six more years of Chavez in Miraflores but they would also potentially face him being able keep serving well past the current limit of 2012. I wonder how that will change the debate within the opposition leadership on whether or not to stand in the elections? I sure would be interesting to be a fly on that wall.


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