November 23, 2008

Where are they now? Election edition (+ Bonus rant)

Quico says: Ever wonder what ever happened to Luis Alfonso Dávila, the Miquilenista former chairman of the National Assembly and Interior Minister? Or to Pedro Soto, Air Force captain who set off that string of anti-Chávez pronouncements by active duty officers back in 2002? Or to David de Lima, former governor of Anzoátegui? Or to Rogelio Peña, former Adeco mayor of Barinas and star of my documentary on the Lands' Law?

You guessed it: they're all running no-hope campaigns for governor - of Anzoátegui, Aragua, Anzoátegui and Barinas, respectively.

Bonus rant: Why oh why do so many politicos in Venezuela go to the trouble of running for offices they haven't the slightest sliver of a chance of winning...what's the point?! What good does it do anyone!?

There are eleven candidates for governor in Táchira! In Vargas, things are so out of hand they need two tarjetones to fit in the thirteen candidates for governor! It's insane, most of these people wouldn't get recognized by their neighbors walking down the street.

That's why Venezuelan ballots sprawl so absurdly out of control...seriously, look at that Distrito Metropolitano don't need a chuleta to make sense of that, you need an atamel.

And another thing...what's with all these tiny parties? Dozens and dozens of them...springing up like mushrooms after spring rain, they turn the simple act of voting into a baffling ordeal.

Sure, there's the unburied dead...the MEPs and Causa Rs and URDs and MASs of this world...parties well past their sell-by dates that have petered out to insignificance without quite vanishing altogether.

But that's not the worst of it...what I want to know is, on what ontological plane does "Vision Venezuela" exist? Or "Poder Laboral"?! Or "Vanguardia Popular"? How about "Guardianes de la Patria" (some of these have terrifying, Minutemen-sounding names)? Or - I swear I'm not making this up - the "Partido Auténtico Nacional - PANA"? Do these parties hold weekly CEN meetings? Do they have CENs!? If you put their entire membership in a VW Beetle, would you have room left over for your girlfriend and her dog? And, most pressing of all, why don't they get a life?!

In England,
they have a simple but effective way to deal with this problem. If you want to appear on the ballot, you have to pay a 500 pound deposit. If you get more than 5% of the vote, that money is returned. If you don't, you lose it.

It's a clever system, when you think about it: giving everyone ballot access while at the same time penalizing la mamadera de gallo. It's even worked its way into the British political vernacular, where "losing your deposit" has become shorthand for an utter electoral drubbing.

The upshot is that British ballots are blissfully free of loonies and no-hopers (well, mostly free). Unlike with our ballots, you can actually make sense of a British ballot just by glancing at it...even if you don't have a double Ph.D in Political Science and Graphic Design!

See? Simple.

A deposit system...would that be so hard? Would it be too high a price to pay for ballots that normal people can make sense of? Would it?