Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Students agreed today: they will vote NO!!!

The intention to abstain is still running high, however, and only a few of the opposition spokesmen have called on voters to go out and vote NO.
Distrust of the CNE continues to be strong, and the “reform” route is recognized by most as illegitimate, but the encouraging trend favoring the NO could change that soon.
In addition to Petkoff, Baduel and Ismael Garcia of PODEMOS, Manuel Rosales has now also called on voters to do so, and the students will take the same position on the occasion of their march this Wednesday 21.
The parties that are part of the hard liners in the opposition led by Antonio Ledezma, Oscar Perez, Oswaldo Alvarez Paz and Hermann Escarra continue, but probably not for long, to call for the cancellation of the referendum and abstention.
It appears increasingly likely that the “reform” proposal will not pass.
In such an event, but also in the case of a YES victory by a small margin, the political damage to Chávez will be irreversible. Last Friday the anti-government candidates in the elections to the student bodies of the UCV received more than 4 times the votes of the Chavista slate.
Chávez could however limit the damage to his hold on power and sidestep an unavoidable debacle by instructing the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to decide in favor of one of the sixteen requests before it to postpone or cancel the referendum.
However, Chávez also did say in a press conference to the foreign correspondents last week that “elections are just one strategic option in building socialism”.
Tampering with the electronic voting machines is not likely to represent a great temptation, even if no international observers will be present on 2 December. 50% of the ballot boxes will be opened and their contents checked against the numbers of the corresponding voting machines. Opposition parties and ngo’s are organizing a nation-wide operation combining exit polls and a quick-count (tasks that are mainly being organized by Un Nuevo Tiempo).
A large part of the population, quite possibly half of it, feels that it is about to lose its identity, values and very livelihood, and is decided to vigorously defend its rights under any circumstance. The other half is split 3 to 2 between those that feel Chávez is not a bad person but that he is slightly off the rocker, and those that love him passionately and fear that rejection of the reform proposal would lead to the loss of their recently acquired benefits and political priority.
But all generally agree that the “reform” proposal is not necessary to improve governance.
Victory of the YES would spell deep instability, and victory of the NO is certainly no guarantee of normalcy.
The “reform” is proving to be Chávez gravest political mistake since his first election to the Presidency, and regardless of the results of the referendum his government will have lost its legitimacy as of the evening of 2 December.
It will have been the result of a long and drawn out process that started even before his reelection last December, and which has been closely followed by the entire nation. This learning process bodes well for a relatively peaceful resolution of Venezuela’s grave crisis of governance.

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