Sunday, August 27, 2006

Come December 4th, what? 

The next presidential election in Venezuela is on December 3rd of this year. It is almost universally accepted that Chavez will easily win re-election.

So not to get ahead of ourselves but the question then arises will their be significant changes in the next presidential term. Chavez will almost certainly be stronger than ever. What can we then look foward to? Here are at least some thoughts on what the political future of Venezuela might hold.

After February 3rd 2007 the democratic revolution will continue

The present presidential term ends on February 2nd 2007 and with all the polls pointing to another landslide victory for the Comandante, what is there is store for Venezuela going into the next presidential term?

The reams written on such themes as corruption in the regime and a Fifth Column operating within the government sabotaging social initiatives such as Mercal, as well as the snails pace justice meted out by a judiciary, that is
obviously not working, are all causes for concern within a democratic revolutionary process

A widening of democracy at the base is currently taking place via the figure of the Communal Councils (* see note below) but in the upper echelons of the Chavez administration there are great concerns about:

• Elected public officials riding on the “Chavez train” but acting like AD bureaucrats
• Incipient corruption within local and state government
• Deliberate inefficiencies in implementing community projects
• Fifth Columnists operating “with impunity”
• The absolute majority in the National Assembly which on the surface appears a negation of pluralistic democracy

With reforms to the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999 being mooted for 2007, Chavez is due to strike a mortal blow at the hearts of those who accuse him of being “autocratic, totalitarian and a dictator”.

Using article 72 of the Constitution, there are plans to call for a relegitimation of all elected public officials using the mechanism of collecting 20% plus of signatures registered in the Electoral Register. Chavez himself can initiate this process or the National Assembly. This will then trigger a mass recall referendum for parish councils, mayoralties, state and municipal legislative chambers as well as the deputies of the National Assembly itself.

With a mass RR on the cards, how can opposition or international private media maintain that Chavez is a dictator who wants to perpetuate himself in power in a way similar to Fidel Castro? Such a referendum is designed to “weed out” the “chavistas in disguise” and those acting as AD bureaucrats. In the final analysis, this means more power to the people within the framework of a working participatory democracy.

The opposition also has a lot to gain from this strategy, virtually being served up on a silver platter by the so-called “rrrrregime” since they will be able to participate in the electoral circuits where the incumbent has been recalled. No doubt, the opposition will turn out in mass to ensure that the 20% of signatures required is easily obtained – they couldn’t be stupid enough to by-pass this opportunity – or could they?

The end result should be a loosening of the control of the majority of current elected officials who are not doing their jobs correctly or efficiently. The people know who’s-who at a local level and this will open the door at the same time for local social and political activists to enter the electoral arena based on performance rather than “amiguismo” – or “jobs for the boys”.

Many opposition deputies who lost their seats in the December 2005 National Assembly elections could make it back into the Assembly itself and breathe life back into the opposition parties which have managed to self-destruct since the 2002 coup and oil industry sabotage.

It’s ironic that the opposition could make a partial come-back thanks to the “dictator”, as they call Chavez, using the mechanisms of the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution, which they unanimously rejected in the constituent process in
1999, in the context of participatory democracy, which they also reject, preferring the democracy of the elites, or standard representative democracy.

The final word will be with the votes of the people, extending democracy and deepening its effects far beyond the bounds of anything that could have been imagined just eight years ago.

When, and not if, this process takes place, the legs of many opposition and private mass media lies will have been cut off, as Chavez proves himself to be one of the greatest exponents of democracy in the history of this political system.

* Communal Councils - Democracy: Economic and Political

Alongside the co-op movement, Venezuelans are engaged in building a new form of local political democracy through so-called Communal Councils. Modeled on Brazil's innovative participatory budgeting process, these councils grew out
of the Land Committees Chávez created to grant land titles to the many squatters in Caracas's barrios. If a community of 100 to 200 families organizes itself and submits a local development plan, the government grants land titles. Result: individuals get homes, and the community gets a grassroots assembly. The councils have budgets and make decisions on a range of local matters. They delegate spokespersons to the barrio and the municipality. Today, a few thousand Communal Councils exist, but within five years the government plans to bring all Venezuelans into local counsels. In conjunction with cooperativization in the economy, the Community Council movement may portend the creation of a new decentralized, democratic political reality.

Interesting thoughts on a deepening of the democratic revolution. Definitely not what most people probably expect but it would be interesting to see.


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