April 26, 2006

A CNE prediction

Katy says: Venezuela's National Assembly (AN) will elect a new Electoral Council today. The board will be elected from a list of 126 candidates filtered by a Committee mostly made up of government representatives. While this may be a routine appointment in normal democracies, it is hard to over-estimate how key this decision is for the future course of political developments in Venezuela.

The 100% chavista AN has been showing a bit more openness than expected the past few days. It has even gone so far to meet with teams from the current opposition presidential pre-candidates. Tomorrow, Borges, Rosales and Petkoff are due to meet the AN representatives.

If this spirit of cooperation prevails, we may get a CNE that is accepted by all parties and the ghosts of massive abstention will be held down - for now. However, if the AN decides to appoint people perceived to be blatantly pro-government to the board - such as current CNE board members Oscar Battaglini, Tibisay Lucena, Oscar León or even current CNE attorney Andrés Brito - it is not hard to foresee what the reaction from the opposition camp will be.

In this scenario, the pressure from the radical wing of the opposition on the pre-candidates will be enormous. Opposition primaries may be dealt a death-blow, and all bets would be off.

As Quico has pointed out before, mistrust in the CNE has been the root cause of an almost total demobilization of opposition political forces in the past few years. Many in the non-chavista camp see this as a deliberate effort on the part of the government - to create enough mistrust to demobilize opponents, but maintain international standards so that foreign observers can still validate your work.

Tomorrow's decision, if it comes, will give us an indication of whether the government wants to continue playing this game or not.

Judging from the track record of AN appointments, this guest-blogger thinks any combination of the four mentioned above will make it to the final board, hence seriously damaging its credibility from the get-go. Let's hope this doomsayer is proven wrong.

(With apologies to Quico, who is not terribly fond of CNE discussions lately)