▲ The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, at a press conference last Sunday, after having gone to vote in an electoral center in Caracas.Photo Xinhua / Presidency of Venezuela

Marco Teruggi

Page 12

La Jornada newspaper
Tuesday, November 23, 2021, p. 32

Caracas. Chavismo won the regional elections on Sunday. This is what the national political map shows that, in terms of governorships, shows 20 states in the hands of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and three in the hands of different opposition forces, an irreversible map with the exception of the state of Barinas, which, In the afternoon yesterday, it was still in the final count. Twenty state capitals also remained in the hands of Chavismo and, of the total of 335 mayors at stake, the PSUV won 205, a figure still in the process of closing.

“I extend my hands to the elected governors of the opposition to meet, make joint plans and support the states in which they have been elected, it is my call (…) those opposition governors who have won are people with political experience, political wisdom and they will know how to respond to my invitation, “said President Nicolás Maduro, accompanied by the leadership of Chavismo, minutes after the election results were known.

The three states won by the opposition were Cojedes, by the Democratic Unity Table (MUD), Nueva Esparta, by the Fuerza Vecinal party, and Zulia, an oil region, particularly marked by shortages of electricity and water, by the Un party. New Time, with Manuel Rosales. If we had been united, at least more than 10 governorships would have accompanied Zulia’s victory last night, and also a significant number of mayoralties, said Rosales, a former governor and former presidential candidate against Hugo Chávez in 2006.

The opposition division was one of the elements that allowed Chavismo to win in several states. One of them, Táchira, key also for being on the border with Colombia, was recovered by the PSUV at the hands of Freddy Bernal, who in the last four years played an important role under the figure of protector of the state, particularly in the border axis, zone complex due to the dynamics of smuggling and paramilitarism. Bernal won on Sunday with 138 thousand 496 votes, against the now former governor Laidy Gómez, who obtained 135 thousand 5 and the third, Fernando Andrade, also an opponent, who took 54 thousand 787 votes.

The situation of unity of Chavismo in the party, the government and the discourse, in contrast to the division of the opposition, both between the parties and in the messages, was a central element to understand the map thrown by the polls. In terms of votes, the group of oppositions obtained slightly more than 4 million 400 thousand, and the PSUV reached just over 3 million 7 thousand – about 600 thousand votes less than that obtained in the legislative elections of 2020 -, but, for the configuration of the electoral scenario and its strategy, achieved a victory by a large majority.

The participation, meanwhile, was 42.26 percent, a number that can be lent to different interpretations and analyzes. Chile, that same Sunday, also had elections, in this case presidential – leaving José Antonio Kast and Gabriel Boric for the second round – and the turnout was 47.3 percent. In France, where there were regional elections this year, turnout was 34 percent. In other words, in comparative international terms, the Venezuelan election was not marked by a strong abstention, but within a framework that, in several countries, shows participation below 50 percent.

Abstention and its interpretations

In national terms, the abstention analysis had various interpretations. On the one hand, in comparative terms with 2020, the share rose about 11 percent, that is, it reversed the downward trend. On the other hand, seen in the line of regional elections, the number showed the permanence of a decrease in participation, since in 2017 it was 61 percent, and in 2012 it was 53.94 percent. This increase in abstention can be read as part of a political wear and tear as a result of the confrontational dynamics, and of an economic situation in decline since 2014 – GDP fell nearly 75 percent – translated into emigration, wage loss, unequal dollarization , in a context of the economic blockade carried out by Washington.

We must continue to recover the vote as a right, as power, as a permanent exercise, as a mechanism, there are many tasks ahead to recover the motivation for the vote of all Venezuelans, Maduro said in the speech on Sunday in the evening.

The election was in turn a mechanism for measuring forces within the oppositions in a context of fragmentation that has been deepening since 2018, when part of the opposition abstained before Maduro’s election, and another decided to participate. The result was negative for the whole due to the map of governorships and mayoralties, and, to a greater extent, for the opposition gathered on the MUD card, in particular a part of Democratic Action, Primero Justicia y Voluntad Popular, that is, the forces who presented themselves during these years in discursive terms as the central actors of the opposition.

This internal dispute was expressed by Rosales, who stated: “politics cannot be exercised from social networks, never, but never will social networks replace direct contact with people (…) a leadership will never be born by decree”, in a Allusive message to Juan Guaidó. One of the emerging questions is who will take the lead in the ranks of the oppositions in the context of a new poor electoral performance and an inability for political renewal, expressed in the fact that the three elected governors turned out to be longtime politicians.

That same question has its international translation. The White House, given the result, sent a message of support to Guaidó yesterday, informing that there will be representatives of the interim government of Venezuela in the so-called Virtual Summit for Democracy led by Joe Biden in December. This support does not bring, however, a clear answer to what Washington will do given that Guaidó has only a virtual existence within the country, and, in a year, the Venezuelan government managed to recover the Legislative Power, form a new electoral power in accordance with the opposition, and now managed to win the majority of governorships and mayoralties.