- Whether or not there is any chance that the Asamblea Nacional will appoint a halfway decent CNE, and
- What the opposition's response to the answer to question (1) should be.
If that is the case, the next point in the discussion is whether or not an honest (or partly honest) CNE directorate would be in the government's interest. And the answer seems to be that the government very much wants the new CNE to be perceived as worthy of confidence, because the presentational issues are very important. When the rubber hits the road, some time into Chavez's next government, he wants to be able to point to a 'free and fair' election, with an international seal of approval, as proof of his legitimacy of origin.
But the key word in the last paragraph is "perceived". Remember Carrasquero? Fiel de la balanza? Praised by the opposition? I would put good money on the proposition that the power in the next CNE will be held by individuals that will bow to government instructions.
Why? Because of the parable of the frog and the scorpion. It's in their nature. Even if the government could be certain that it would win a totally free, fair and transparent election, it would not run one. Chavez is not about to surrender control over a key branch of government at this stage in the proceedings.
That leaves question (2) - how should the opposition react? The biggest problem here is the one they've been faced with ever since the RR: how do you fight what's happening in the CNE without leaving your potential voters ever more convinced that it's not worth voting because the process is utterly viciado?
Unfortunately for the opposition, their inability to answer that question is not their biggest problem. Their biggest problem is that they have no leaders worth following and no political programme to offer as an alternative to the current government.
I don't precisely share your view that there are only four ways the chavez government can come to an end (election, heart-attack, coup or invasion.) I think the most plausible scenario is a political implosion of the regime. But to end up as the beneficiary, the opposition has to lay the groundwork, create a movement and find a leader, and -preferably - prove its worth by getting more real votes than Chavez in an election.
None of these conditions yet exists. If they go into december's election with a 'unity' candidate like arias cardenas in 2000 or salas romer in 1998 they will be left in 2007 with nothing, even assuming they get the 'ya tradicional' 40%. Because, as we know, that 40% is an anti-chavez vote, not a pro-opposition vote. If they pull out, not only do they surrender yet more space, they leave themselves in the sub-basement as far as international opinion is concerned.