The Opposition remains doomed to its labyrinth in Venezuela. Entrapped, confused, it has the feeling, if not the certainty, of being a majority or, at least, the dissatisfied, the disgruntled and the politically indignant. The urns however said otherwise, and President Maduro’s government celebrates in style its triumph in the elections of October 15. In the ranks of the Opposition though the ones who did not vote are happy for a result that allows them to say: «We were right!»
The «Aventine» was no solution though; it has never been one. The Mesa de la Unidad Democrática [(The Table of Democratic Unity)], with its archipelago of parties, could not afford to repeat the mistakes of the past, by deserting the electoral process, as was indeed the case with the parliamentary elections in 2005. When a regime with an authoritarian vocation opens the door to an election, one cannot say «no». It is necessary to participate, even knowing that the road will be full of difficulties. After all, no authoritarian government accepts the challenge of an election if it is not sure it will come out victorious.
The results of October 15, which the Consejo Nacional Electoral [(National Electoral Council)] released just hours after the closure of polling stations, came as a surprise. Opinion polls —all without exception— had given the Opposition an overwhelming advantage. They showed a government in difficulties, while the Mesa de la Unidad seemed to gain spaces. Everything changed in a few days. Once again, the «Chavismo» was able to turn into triumph what seemed doomed to end up in defeat.
Cheating with the urns? There was none. And some leaders of the Opposition honestly recognized so. For the government, this would have been the last resort. The electoral process however was plagued by irregularities and illegalities, blessed by a submissive and complacent Supreme Court of Justice —in short, an accomplice of Power, to which it belongs, and obeys.
The decision of the Consejo Nacional Electoral —despite the protests of the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática— not to allow changes in the voting cards, caused bewilderment. Keeping in the voting cards the names of governor candidates that had withdrawn from the race, was a potential confounder. Undoubtedly, it contributed to dilute the vote. The closure of polling stations, and the relocation of voters in other stations that were cramped, with few tables, and in distant locations, also created bewilderment. Disinformation coming from the own Consejo Nacional Electoral; delays in the opening of polling stations; and unusable machines, did the same. Everything contributed to plant despair, frustration and disappointment in the voters. And the contradictory messages of the leaders of the Mesa de la Unidad were of no help.
The opposition coalition cannot avoid now a deep self-criticism; admitting its mistakes and failures, so as not to repeat them in the near future. It must also proceed to a deep internal reorganization. The most difficult task however will be to win back the voters’ confidence. In order to give Venezuelans enthusiasm and optimism after the defeat, the leaders of the Mesa de Unidad Democrática must use one and the same message, and speak with the truth. In short, they must avoid making unfullfilable promises, as well as the temptation of falling into the trap of populism. They can no longer tell Venezuelans what Venezuelans want to hear, but face them with reality. In the first place, they must explain that the one who built the defeat of October 15 was not the government, with its propaganda machine; but the Opposition itself, with its indecisions, unfullfilable promises and contradictory messages.