Saturday, September 03, 2005

50 years of Venezuelan electoral politics

Venezuela had been the longest standing Democracy of all Spanish speaking countries (yes, even longer than Spain), we used to send observers around the world, and practically organized a big part of the first Nicaraguan elections in recent history. Miguel Octavio has aptly managed to express most of modern electoral history of Venezuela in this post:
Somehow foreign readers come around to tell us that Chavez is different, because he “cares” about the poor, wants to “redistribute” wealth, is not part of the “elites” that have governed our country, because he is very “popular”, he wants to eliminate corruption and is a “break” from the past. I wonder how much this people know about Venezuela’s forty years of political history prior to Chavez
An excellent read. With an excellent comment thread. The only comment I will add to it, is that in the Caldera II election, a sizable segment of the population saw much better candidates in any of the other 3:
  • Claudio Fermín ("El Negro Fermín"). Soft-spoken sociologist, representing AD.
  • Álvarez Paz, the governor of the main oil production state in Venezuela
  • Andrés Velasquez, with deep daily laborer roots, himself part of a labor movement ("Radical Cause" ) that democratically took several Venezuelan Regions by storm.
  • I personally would have voted for any of them, all of them were sensible options, running a truthful campaign with different perspectives, but we had to chose one, so me and most of my friends, just relied on polling data and media hype to go for the one with the most perceived support (I can't even remember which one I chose!!!, but I remember kicking myself for not voting for Claudio Fermín in that election). These three candidates split the vote evenly. I recall the numbers being much closer than in Miguel's article, with a Caldera advantage of barely 1-2%, but then I'm just relying on memory. That is one of the "advantages" of a simple majority vote. The addition of an "anyone else but Caldera" option would have put the country on a completely different path. The same way that an "anyone but Chavez" option would do it in the 2006 elections.
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