The right is divided and adrift at the start of 2018 after three impressive victories at the polls for the left led by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
Nonetheless, a number of analysts are warning the left to be on alert as the opposition started the year looking for a unity candidate.
This is an enviable challenge for political groups and figures that hobnob their way to the top and hope to receive favours from the United States, who in turn makes no effort to hide its plan to use the embassy in Caracas as a spearhead against Venezuela.
The opposition was left besmirched by the violent acts led by some of its member parties in 2017, particularly Primero Justicia and Voluntad Popular, something that the Partido Acción Democrática took advantage of in order to position themselves as the opposition party with the most backing.
Meanwhile, a new dialogue initiated on January 11 as part of mediation efforts taking place in the Dominican Republic, with the participation of several chancellors from Venezuela, could help the opposition’s plans for unity, given that they are in need of leadership and credibility.
There is much at stake in the Dominican Republic; the majority of those who turn up to the ballet box hope that through this dialogue, the necessary agreements can be reached between the leftist government and the opposition to improve the political climate in a year of presidential elections, and develop strategies to aid the country’s economic recovery.
Various analysists consider that the challenge for the opposition in the coming presidential elections will be to find a single candidate with an agenda and proposals to solve the different socio-economic problems facing the population, something that is not predicted from the right who until now have lacked direction.
Among the warnings directed at the left is the reminder that the only opposition victory in 18 years was seen in December 2015, when the opposition took control of the National Assembly with a message of unity, although the ambitions of its leaders scuppered the effort.
Another challenge for the right is to eliminate all traces of the opposition-led violence that took place in 2017 and work towards finding a single presidential candidate, something that now seems impossible to some.
It seems that there is a certain ‘self-critical’ spirit among the opposition. On leaving his post as President of the National Assembly after it was declared ‘in contempt’, Julio Borges, leader of opposition party Primero Justicia, called for unity from the opposition in order get the country ‘out of chaos’.
If the opposition find themselves ‘with their backs against the wall’, as some have stated, the left also has to work hard this year to gain more votes and increase the support it already has.
With regard to Chavismo, the leftish government will be forced to overturn part of its social benefit programmes in favour of the middle class, an indecisive sector that is capable of tipping the scales in December, especially as the opposition also control a percentage of sympathisers who will vote in unity if there is a single candidate.
The left were victorious in the municipal and regional elections in 2017, but they will need to win more than nine millions votes in the next presidential elections, for which close to 21 million people will be on the electoral register.
According to Venezuelan analyst Carlos Enrique Dallmeier, the Great Patriotic Pole must increase its electoral stronghold by around three million in order to gain victory in the next presidential elections and not have to rely on abstention and division from the opposition.
Given that they already have the support of the majority of the most underprivileged sectors, there is no doubt that any increase in the vote will come from the middle-class sector, in particular the lower middle class.
However, Dallmeier highlights that the government has little room for manoeuvre to address the basic needs of these middle-class sectors of the population, hence the importance of establishing an economic offensive, which is developed by the government within the first few months of the year.
In this sense, oil will be the spearhead to attract foreign currency to the country’s coffers in order to overcome the ironclad economic blockade imposed by the US and some of its allies, which would alleviate the shortages of food, medicine and other consumables that the country needs, according to President Nicolas Maduro.
According to the Venezuelan analyst and ex-diplomat, ‘the elections are won or lost in the free markets, in the shops, and in the supermarkets’, and the middle classes have been the most affected by the aggressive economic policies launched from the outside with the support of internal factors. The bourgeois is still making use of its own supplies.
Another factor to take into account for December 2018 are the abstentions from the opposition that facilitated the leftist victories, something that will not be seen if the opponents manage to find a unitary candidate and present a political agenda with a nationalist slant and one that is less committed to US policy. (PL)
(Translated by Lucy Daghorn) – Photos: Pixabay