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Venezuela’s Post-Elections Deadlock: Polarization, Ungovernability, Violence

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Dec 9, 2013, 9:53 pm

EspañolThe municipal elections on December 8 released mixed and close results between Chavismo and the democratic opposition. This indicates the country is still divided, and it continues the trend we have been observing since 2006: a growth of the opposition and decline of the regime, but both at a slow pace, maybe too slow.

Nicolás Maduro’s government won in terms of national votes and number of municipalities, but they lost the most populated, prominent localities of the country. Considering the advantaged and abusive capacity of the state’s institutions and resources, they won with a narrow margin. Their leverage and barefaced populism — in violation of the Constitution — their trampling of citizen rights and liberties, and the inequalities in favor of the government during the electoral campaign were all without parallel in current Latin America, except for the Cuban regime. As a polling director, Luis Vicente León of Datanalisis, explains, “The president’s strategy on the economic sphere directly influenced the municipal elections’ results, but it didn’t turn over the opposition’s favorability in main cities.”

The PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) engaged in numerous electoral felonies on election day; they had invalid votes produced by automated procedures; a lot of Venezuelans are living abroad — almost 2 million — and couldn’t vote; and there was a high rate of abstention on the opposition side. Yet, democratic forces still maintained control over the Metropolitan District and the oil city of Maracaibo. They even conquered new key capitals, such as Valencia, Mérida, Maturín, San Cristóbal, and even Barinas, cradle of the late Hugo Chávez.

In a truly democratic country, a result that doesn’t give a clear victory to either side should open up the doors for national debate and dialogue between the government and the opposition. However, Venezuela is not a country with a democratic system. Therefore, in his first speech after the electoral results, President Nicolás Maduro assured that he will continue with the “revolutionary” process. These will be the same radical and statist policies he has been applying, within the framework of the Plan of the Fatherland 2013-2019. In other words, that’s Socialism for the 21st Century — dictatorial neo-communism, which is already in process.

This diabolical path will deepen polarization, ungovernability, division, and political and social violence in the country. These tendencies will increase inasmuch as the economic crisis continues to affect people, and it will without doubt hit hard in 2014.

These critical problems constitute growing and ominous challenges ahead, both for the government and the opposition — organized under the Democratic Unity Roundtable. The government has promised more revolution, but how will they achieve this when more than half of the population opposes them? Further, they face a society of individuals, including Chavistas, who generally expect their problems to be solved immediately, but they have ever more scarce budget and spending capacities.

On the opposition side, how will they face the attacks from the government, which are more openly authoritarian and unscrupulous? How will they convince a significant segment of opposition followers — who have abstained from voting in recent elections — that change is still to be found through democratic and peaceful measures? Will these people have the patience to wait, at least, for the possibility of a presidential recall referendum in 2016?

The future doesn’t look easy, neither for Chavismo nor for the current leadership of the opposition. And Venezuela, as a nation, is still in deadlock.

Translated by Marcela Estrada.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.