Ana Cristina Bracho
During the last twenty-two years, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has experienced a hyperactive democracy. This is why it is a very rare country where, on average, there has been more than one election a year. However, none of its elections have been spared from being presented as the moment of definitive truth, a situation that will generate a historical break that will give way to counterrevolution.
Today, it is December 7, 2020 and all attention is focused on yesterday’s parliamentary elections. There is no obvious fact about these elections that can be ignored given the intensity of the attacks received. Therefore, we have to observe that the celebration of the elections in itself is a triumph of the forces that committed themselves to the Republic and its institutions, enduring the international pressures that caused many people to avoid the event.
Thus, we witnessed an election whose conditions were the object of agreements and debates; whose date was determined by the Constitution that establishes the duration of the legislative mandate and the beginning of the parliamentary period. An issue that we will remember was opposed even by the European Union that maintained that although more than twenty elections were held in the world in 2020, the one in Venezuela could not be conducted, requesting in this manner that Caracas deviate from its own constitutional norms so that the elections would take place when it pleased them.
Next, there is the issue of participation. It is evident to anyone who takes into account how electoral participation works that parliamentary elections are less crowded than presidential ones in a system where the head of state and government is the Executive. Then, we have another element that is a democracy where participation is a right and not a duty, where, following Rousseau’s proposals, each person has the possibility of participating – or not – once or some, all or none.
Therefore, in Venezuela there is no quorum of participation to determine that an election is legitimate and much less can it be determined that abstention is a triumph of a sector that calls for not voting because this sector only joins those who never exercise the right and those who are impeded materially in a particular process.
Even more absurd, in this same sense, is the argument that electoral silence can be more valuable than voices that, under the protection of a Constitution that states that “suffrage is a right [that] shall be exercised through free, universal, direct, and secret voting,” respond to a call from the National Electoral Council. This is so obvious that in all electoral processes, the problem lies in determining in whose favor the votes were cast and not in imagining what the reasons, orientations, or causes are that a sector did not turn out to vote and whom that sector would have favored.
Now there is an issue that I think is important to take into account because many analysts have bet on comparing the participation in the 2020 parliamentary elections with those held in 2005 where the strategy -and consequently the results- of the opposition were the same. The truth is that there is a very important difference between the two processes because on that occasion the opposition electorate was asked not to vote and on this one, in addition to this, the electorate was pressured not to attend.
This element is an important factor to take into account, since these elections were held after months of criticism of the electoral process, when in the days and hours prior to the process the Lima Group announced that it would not recognize the results, saying that by voting we would not overcome the chapter that began in 2015. Therefore, the fear of being punished in the future for participating, as well as a warning that nothing that could be done through democratic means would change the situation, are elements that were extensively pursued on the eve and day of these elections.
Consequently, we have the electoral results to evaluate:
- The fulfillment of an electoral calendar established by the Constitution
- A process whose preparation was mediated by negotiations that achieved the participation of a sector of the national opposition that obtains an important representation.
- A participation that, being legally free, faces an international proscription of the elections.
- A participation that occurs in a besieged country, a population subjected to a deep socio-economic crisis, worsened by a very acute lack of fuel.
- A country where voters are not obliged to register at the polling station closest to their residence and which therefore requires means of transport that were only partially available.
- An electoral event with participation characteristics similar to those that occurred in 2005 when the opposition chose the same route.
Given that this fact can be verified through the only scientific and legal mechanisms for measuring political will in the country, the media focus is on aiming for a consultation that emulates the 2017 plebiscite – where the opposition convenes autonomously and without institutions to engage in an activity parallel to the actual electoral event – and, to be held in January, where work is being done to create a new scheme that will serve it – as they intended with the Transition Statute – to dismantle norms to allow an expired period to remain in force.
In this way, with the electoral chapter closed, we will return to the normality of a country under siege where they will continue trying to generate formulas for violence and intervention that must be deactivated day by day to guarantee the continuity of the Bolivarian process.
Having said this, we now have a scenario in which the National Assembly has the challenge of being the main political forum of the country where it must ensure that the debates contribute to the resolution of conflicts through national and institutional channels; the recovery of wages; the improvement of the provision of public services; the use of its powers in terms of good governance and the dismantling of the intervention and plundering operations that the Republic has recently suffered.
This challenge is faced by the National Assembly, which will now have the difficult task of demonstrating that the national institutions are capable of taking the historic leap required to close this chapter, which will necessitate a rethinking of the entire parliamentary framework in order to regain the spirit of the legislature, as well as to make room for all the minority sectors and to highlight all the areas of work that are necessary to complete the development of the new legislation that the country needs.
Translation by Internationalist 360°