For the past several years, Venezuela’s political landscape has been shifting. The political opposition, too long crushed by the overwhelming forces of the government, has started to win. After several years of patiently building upon victories and quietly creating unity; Venezuela’s United Opposition has established itself going into the October 2012 elections as the country’s primary political force.
There is important evidence that demonstrates this fact. Starting in December of 2007 when the Venezuelan people voted down an effort to radically alter Venezuela from a Constitutional Republic to a Socialist State, Venezuela’s opposition has been scoring victory after victory at the polls. Most recently, in September of 2010 during the parliamentary elections, the opposition received almost 5 percent more votes that the government – this despite the dirty tricks that unpopular governments all too often use to swing elections in their favor.
Building upon that victory, the Venezuelan opposition has consolidated itself under a new banner: the Table for Democratic Unity (MUD for its acronym in Spanish). Currently the MUD brand has achieved a more than 30 percent favorability rating, the highest of any political organization in the country, including the government’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
MUD’s overarching goal is to bring electoral victory to the opposition in order to establish a government of national reconciliation which can – at long last – bring peace, prosperity and well-being to all Venezuelans in equal measure. Only through this hard-won act of unity will MUD be successful in at long last rebuilding a shattered country.
And the stakes could not be higher.
For this reason, and understanding that the opposition is facing its most difficult challenge yet, MUD has made important advances with an eye toward the October 2012 election. The first has been a commitment to participate in the elections at all levels. The October elections are not only for president, but for mayors and governors as well. This has meant negotiation and agreement from the municipal level on up to the national, in order to assure that there is only one opposition candidate facing the corresponding candidate of the government.
The second has been adherence by most of Venezuela’s traditional parties (now currently in opposition) to a plan of governing. This 164 page plan, presented on the 23rd of January, was developed by over 400 of the nation’s experts in areas as wide ranging as security, economic growth, agriculture and military affairs; and it was discussed and agreed to from the candidates to municipal government all the way to the presidential candidates.
The final component, and the one which has received the greatest attention, is the commitment to select the candidates to the various offices through a process of primaries. Currently, MUD has 1177 candidates across the country who will compete against each other in the February 12, 2012 primaries. This, naturally, includes the primary election for the person who will face the sitting president in October.
To be sure, the challenges for MUD are enormous. The United Opposition is running against nothing less than the oil-funded treasury of the Government of Venezuela. In this election, it’s most vulnerable yet, the government will use their almost limitless resources to buy enough votes to stay in power.
They will also use threats of reprisals to the 5,000,000 Venezuelans under their employ; and attempt to portray MUD candidates, using violent and hysterical insults, as throwbacks to the past or beholden to foreign powers. With MUD facing the entire apparatus of a repressive and authoritarian regime, the fight is a bit like David vs. Goliath.
David won that fight.
Despite the aforementioned challenges, an attentive student of politics will acknowledge that momentum counts for a great deal in elections. This is going to be a very close race, but there are opportunities: some polls show that 49 percent versus 43 percent of the citizens would like a different leader to govern Venezuela in 2013. The majority of Venezuelans, 55 percent, prefer a democratic government versus those that like socialism (32 percent) and communism (2 percent).
Venezuelans of all stripes are tired of conflict and violence, of unemployment and shortages. Privation and sacrifice are never good campaign promises; but they seem to be the only offerings left from a decaying, failed government. Venezuelans know life can be better, and a vast portion of the country is looking to the October elections to provide that alternative which would improve their situation and provide greater promise for their children.
MUD represents this option; and we will not let them down.
Laura Rojas in the Washington D.C.-based representative for Venezuela's Table for Democratic Unity.