Monday, December 05, 2005

Boycotts Solidify Chavez' Grip on Power

About 10% of the opposition parties in Venezuela called for a boycott of recent elections, guaranteeing a solid majority for Chavez. In some areas controlled by the opposition, only 6% of the voters turned out for the election. (Washington Post: Chavez Allies Are Poised To Solidify Their Majority). The net result of the lopsided election is that Chavez will control over a two-thirds majority, enough for him to overturn restrictions preventing his running for a third term.

The concept of boycotting elections is nothing new. We saw this same nonsense in the first Iraqi elections in which the Sunni's staged a widespread boycott. The net result was that Sunni representation was non-existent in the Iraqi parliament. Now in Venezuela we are faced with a boycott by opposition leaders, and once again we find that those that did turn out to vote have won the day. Which part of the election process don't these opposition leaders understand?

Besides non-participation, there is another major problem that plagues opposition groups in the typical Latin American election. The groups over-saturate the electorate with candidates. In Venezuela, 5500 candidates were listed for 167 seats. That's an average of 33 candidates per seat! As a result, the opposition spreads its votes so thin it becomes virtually impossible to unseat the incumbent party. The same issue plagues Peru where over thirty candidates are currently declared for the 2006 presidential elections.

What the elections in Venezuela mean for us is an even more boisterous Chavez, denouncing just about everything American. Well, everything except our money, that is. He's still willing to accept dollars in exchange for oil. Unfortunately, Chavez has a bit of support within the OAS as seen in the last round of AAFT discussions. What the states around him have not yet realized is that Chavez can only drag them under with him. Venezuela is no economic power, and they are certainly no military power. For the rest of Latin America to listen to that crackpot is sheer folly, yet that is precisely what they have been doing.

For now it appears that there will be more of the same coming out of Venezuela. Expect Chavez to declare a mandate to continue his hard-line rhetoric against the US. Expect Chavez, buoyed by his overwhelming majority, to further strengthen his alliance with Iran and Cuba. His relationship with Iran is not trivial, mind you. Both are members of OPEC, and while collectively they don't control a lot of the world's oil, they certainly do carry weight when it comes to setting OPEC policy. That controls oil production and hence oil prices.

In any event, the elections recently held in Venezuela are not to be ignored. They will certainly play a role in world affairs and possibly American politics throughout 2006. We haven't heard the last of Chavez, sadly enough.


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