With regional elections October 15, Maduro practices a very particular version of the rolling of the bones
By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- A 2012 recording of the late Hugo Chavez asking Venezuelans to vote for his party’s candidates in that year’s regional elections was used Monday by the embattled government of Nicolas Maduro, hoping for a similar effect for the October 15 regional elections, which look uphill for the candidates of the man who calls himself “the son of Chavez” -- in spite of the fact that he is no relation.
Maduro has not been invited for any electoral events for any of his candidates as of this writing and he has only alluded to the contest, days ago, to say he hopes to lose 10 states of the 20 the PSUV ruling party controls.
On Sunday however Maduro reversed himself, saying his candidates were “at risk of winning all 23 state governments” -- a feat that has never been accomplished since regional elections began in 1989 by any party, not even by the far more popular Chavez. In the same speech and almost in the same breath, Maduro promised to continue “dialogue” efforts with the opposition after the elections.
Government candidates however, do not include Maduro in their arrangements.
In Miranda (a key state, where half of the capital city of Caracas sits) PSUV candidate Hector Rodriguez has not mentioned Maduro or used his image in any of his posters or other propaganda pieces.
The late Chavez, however, is featured.
Even if he died in early 2013, Chavez remains a much more popular figure than Maduro in Venezuela: Tracking polls by main pollsters Datanalisis have the late President scoring approval rates below 50%, to Maduro’s below 20%.
And while even Maduro says he is expecting to lose 50% of the states his party now holds, others expect the trouncing to be much more serious: Pollsters Datanalisis and left-wing news and analysis website “Aporrea” (which also still support Chavez, but are vehemently anti-Maduro) have both said the opposition will win a record 21 of Venezuela’s 23 states, making the largest defeat ever in Venezuelan electoral history (2015’s legislative super-majority) look modest in comparison.
In a sense it often feels that Chavez never really left. He has a sanctuary where the faithful light candles to his likeness and pray to him, a museum, a mausoleum and at least one image of him in every housing project he ever built. At the beginning of all official acts presided by Maduro, a recording of the national anthem, “Gloria al Bravo Pueblo”, sung by Chavez, plays.
As in past elections during the ruling “Chavismo” movement’s 18-year grip on Venezuela, state resources are being mobilized heavily for official candidates.
Distribution of subsidized food at government rallies is commonplace, state-run companies lend transport for the events, and state media give Maduro’s candidates unfettered air-time. One opposition candidate’s brother has been arrested for alleged car theft in what the coalition says is an attempt to intimidate its ranks.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage for the opposition is the electronic ballot sheet itself.
Despite primaries to choose a single opposition candidate per state from the plethora of parties within the Democratic Unity coalition, the pro-Maduro election board is declining to modify the ballot list to narrow it down to one name.
All initial candidates from before the primaries are listed on the ballot instead, something that could confuse opposition supporters and dilute their vote, benefiting the ruling Socialist Party’s candidates.
And many popular opposition candidates have been banned by the government from running, including Leopoldo Lopez, Henrique Capriles Radonski, Maria Corina Machado, Ramon Muchacho, David Smolansky, Daniel Ceballos, Antonio Ledezma, and many more.
And over the weekend, Maduro asked for more to be banned and jailed.
“I ask Delcy Rodríguez for her cooperation in tightening the Electoral Law and all the country’s laws and review the legality of all right-wing opposition parties.”