Hugo Pérez Hernáiz
The National Electoral Council has officially set municipal elections for December 8th, 2013. Between mayors and representatives to the municipal councils of 335 municipalities, up to 2,792 posts will be elected.
Both sides are already refining their mobilization strategies.
Municipal elections have a strong regional character that make them different from presidential elections. However, the December 8 elections will inevitably be seen as a sort of referendum on the Maduro government.
On June 4th, speaking to supporters in Carabobo, Maduro argued that “if recently [referring to the April 14th elections] we won in 71% of all municipalities, on December 8 we will win no less that 80% of the municipalities of the country. You can count on that.”
However, presenting unified pro-government candidates in all municipalities could be a challenge. Maduro acknowledged this during his speech in Carabobo, stating that a method was needed to “have unitary revolutionary, popular and chavista candidates in the 335 municipalities of the country. (…) Every compatriot that aspires to be mayor should humbly say: my post is at the orders of any method or unitary formula that we can find.”
Also, as a mobilization strategy he proposed a method based on turning out entire families, which sounds similar to the Comandos Familiares, the opposition’s strategy in the last presidential elections: “Let’s construct Bolivarian, socialist, humanist, and chavista households all over the country.” Starting in Carabobo, the plan is meant to extend to the rest of the country and constitute a “huge organization that has at its center the household, the family, the homes of our compatriots.” He added that the plan is to use the 1X10 (the PSUV mobilization plan for the presidential elections of December 2012), but instead of an individual plan, “I propose that now it should be 1×10 by household. The union of the Bolivarian family, the Chavista family.”
On June 6th, Maduro again insisted on the need of unitary candidates and gave further details of his family mobilization strategy: It should be built into a base structure that includes all the communities called the Network of Chavista Homes of Venezuela (Red de Hogares Chavistas de Venezuela). However he also emphasized the need to strengthen the established PSUV formal structures; in particular he mentioned that within the next three months the party should install party houses in every one of the 1,132 parishes of the country. These party houses would coordinate the work of the Battle Units of Hugo Chávez (Unidades de Batalla Hugo Chávez), the basic mobilization units of the PSUV strategy. Maduro ordered these battle units to devote the coming three months to door-to-door visits to “reengage” government supporters that might have become disenchanted.
Maduro has, in the last two weeks, traveled around the interior conversing with supporters on his show Dialogo Bolivariano, whose sessions closely resemble the format of Chavez’s Aló Presidente. In these meetings he has emphasized the need for unity in the face of the upcoming elections in order to “preserve the revolutions.” In one of the Dialogo Bolivariano in Trujillo he declared: “They won’t come back, and our actions must ensure that the fascist right never returns.”
The opposition faces the challenge of mobilizing its supporters despite its insistence on contesting the results of the presidential elections. This time around, as before, the opposition will face the biases of a government controlled National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE). And, this time it will likely have less media exposure for its candidates after the changes in Globovision. However, in the presidential elections on April 14th the opposition showed a stronger and more coherent mobilization strategy than in previous elections. It could build on that successful experience for December 8.
On June 5th, in a public meeting with supporters in Miranda, Capriles argued that the December 8 elections would be “very important,” and “a great opportunity to show that the country wants change.” He called for the reactivation of the Comandos Familiares for mobilization. Later that same day, Capriles declared on his new web based TV channel–which attempts to break with the government’s “hegemonic” control of television–that the elections of December 8 should be considered a “plebiscite” on the government. He insisted that in the April 14th election fraud had occurred, but that, all the same, it was necessary to vote in the next elections so as to “construct a sufficient force so that no cheating, no little tricks (triquiñuelas), could impact the results.” Capriles also declared that he had asked the MUD to name him head of the campaign for all the opposition candidates running for mayor.
Unified candidacies could also pose problems for the opposition’s many parties. The executive secretary of the MUD, Guillermo Aveledo, recently declared that the issue of unitary opposition candidates, at least for mayor, is already resolved. According to Aveledo, the candidates will be the same ones that were previously chosen in “a process that ended in the primaries of February 12, 2012, which included, following a previous agreement, a proportion of unitary agreements and consensus.” He added that “those candidacies are still in effect.” However there could still be disagreements in some regions: The Primero Justicia leader Juan Pablo Guanipa has asked the MUD to organize a primary to select the opposition candidate for mayor of Maracaibo (Eveling Trejo de Rosales of Un Nuevo Tiempo, UNT, was designated as candidate by the MUD by agreement between the parties). The National Secretary of UNT, Alfonso Marquina, has asked Primero Justicia if “it will respect the rules of the MUD or not” to select candidates.
Another conflicting issue could be the use of a single ballot card for each opposition candidate. Capriles is already insisting on the need of a Tarjeta Unica similar to the one the MUD used for the April 14th elections.