Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Finally, something positive from the opposition 

It's been a long time coming but it looks like maybe - just maybe - the opposition is finally getting its act together and is about to finally taking some good steps. It was announced yesterday by SUMATE - the opposition electoral NGO supported by the U.S. - that they will be organizing primaries for opposition candidates who want to run against Chavez in the upcoming presidential election.

This is a positive development on a number of levels. First, Venezuelan political parties have been notably undemocratic. Their leaders are generally self-appointed. Even within the Chavista political movement there has been no consistent allowing of the bases to have a voice through internal elections much to the consternation of many Chavez supporters. The opposition has been even worse with all of its leaders simply self-appointed or creations of the media. If finally your average opposition supporter gets a voice in who speaks for them that is certainly a positive development. Hopefully, this will be the start of a trend.

Also, by having primaries the various would be candidates will have to compete. This should bring about a healthy debate on the issues that has been sorely lacking up to this point. The opposition has for the past four or five years largely limited itself to attacking Chavez without putting forth and detailed plan as to what they would do differently. But if Borges and Petkoff, the two opposition front runners, have to fight for votes they may well be compelled to offer such details. That would truly be a positive development for all Venezuelans, not just opposition supporters. Even the government itself has said it would welcome a serious and responsible opposition.

A couple of other notes on this. First, SUMATE is very closely tied to the U.S. It receives funding from them and its leaders meet and consult with top U.S. officials. So I strongly suspect that what is behind this is U.S. frustration at the inability of the opposition to get its act together and mount an effective challenge to Chavez.

Second, it will be interesting to see SUMATE actually do something positive like run an election instead of just peddling bogus exit polls and fraud theories. I wonder how they will react if there are allegations of fraud in these primaries.


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