"In its campaign strategy, the PSUV is committing the same errors as those of April 14": An Interview with Political Scientist Nicmer Evans

Nicmer Evans, a political analysist, warns that government leadership is leading toward a possible increase in chavista abstention. He estimates that the government will win more mayoral positions but will continue losing strength in urban areas, in which the opposition will gain more strength and change the national political picture.

By Nicmer Evans, Diario La Verdad
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Political scientist Nicmer Evans (Archive/José Nava)
Political scientist Nicmer Evans (Archive/José Nava)

Nicmer Evans, a political scientist with a master's degree in social psychology, who identifies with chavismo, said in an interview with La Verdad newspaper from his office in downtown Caracas that the government's campaign strategy is falling to the same errors that were committed in the presidential elections of April 14.

For Evans, self-criticsm is vital to make the necessary corrections that would guarantee a victory in the municipal elections of Dec. 8, which would occur through a shift in the leadership of Nicolas Maduro's government, since continuing along the same path would be pushing toward the possibility of an increase in abstention within chavismo.

While the late President Hugo Chavez designated candidates himself on several occasions, the political scientist believes that Chavez acted in circumstances different from the current ones. He does not question the candidates of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) for mayoral positions, but rather the method by which they were chosen.

He believes that the opposition scored a point in its favor when it consulted its bases and selected its candidates from primary elections, but the fact that these primaries occurred over a year and a half ago makes the decisions less significant, and the candidates to feel similarly imposed.

Could the phenomenon that happened in [the 2010] parliamentary elections repeat itself, where the opposition gains the majority of votes nationally but remains with less mayoral positions?

That is definitely possible and feasible, but in the end it is still a defeat.

Is the opposition making a mistake in creating the expectation that the municipal elections will be a sort of pebiscite for Nicolas Maduro?

I think that it is a complete error to suggest that the elections are a plebiscite if they aren't unified. If they were unified, the interpretation would make sense.

Is society depolarizing?

I think that we're moving toward a process of the beginning of a depolarization that is trying to be obstructed by the same two opposing poles, because within chavismo there is also much discontent. I don't know to what extent there will be outsider candidates, but what I do know is that the conduct of President Nicolas Maduro's government is pushing toward the possibility of an increase in the abstention within chavismo, a demobilization within chavismo, and the possibility of the creation of alternative organizations that would be still chavista, but not directly associated with government policies.

Would they be chavistas but not maduristas?

I doubt that madurismo can exist. What I'm sure of is that chavismo exists, and that it has its diversity and its spectrum. There are chavistas who are fully in agreement with the current policies of Maduro's government, and there are chavistas who maintain their desire to preserve the legacy of president Chavez. The latter don’t believe that Maduro is ensuring that legacy, in this moment, and they are proposing that the necessary corrections be made. In a recent poll by the Venezuelan Instittue for Data Analysis (IVAD) the following question was asked: are you in agreement with the continuation of the legacy of President Chavez? 59 percent responded yes. The next question: do you believe that President Nicolas Maduro is guaranteeing the continuation of President Chavez's legacy? 48 percent responded yes. This means that there is a difference of 10 to 11 points, which generates a difference between what Chavez did with that relation and what Maduro is doing.

What difference is there between the selection of candidates hand-picked by Chavez with the selection of candidates hand-picked by Maduro? Is it the same?

The circumstances are completely different. The trajectory and leadership of President Chavez didn't justify such a process, but they legitimated it. I think that Nicolas Maduro is just beginning to construct his own leadership, and that generates difficulties for him to gain the same legitimacy within the parties that form part of the revolutionary process so that he has the same impact that President Chavez did in his own selection of candidates.

Could Nicolas Maduro not be the launch-pad that Chavez was for candidates?

It's very clear that the only way to substitute Chavez as a launchpad is through a platform. It's not through an individual; it's not a substitution of one for another. It's the possibility that the Great Patriotic Pole, as President Chavez said, transforms itself into the space that permits a collective direction toward the search of an overarching objective for the revolutionary process, not only on an electoral level but on the level of the process of making decisions.

Will Maduro's repetition of the strategy of going through each municipality to give his support to candidates have the same effect as with Chavez?

It will not have the same impact as it did under President Chavez, but it will definitely have an important impact on the party's militancy. It's a strategy. In any case, the problem here is not the candidates nor who supports who. I'm absolutely sure that there is going to be a sector of chavismo that will support the candidate independently of who he or she is, whether it be "El Potro" Alvarez [for the municipality of Sucre], Winston Vallenilla [for Baruta], Jorge Rodriguez [for Libertador], or Miguel Perez [for Maracaibo]. The problem is deeper than the fact that chavismo votes for the selected candidate – because surely the majority of chavismo will do this. The problem is that within the base of the revolutionary process, there is a questioning of the form of the selection for these candidates.

Could the designation of candidates without political experience, like Vallenilla and Alvarez, be in exchange for a favor during the presidential campaign? How can the PSUV deal with the image of interlopers?

This is a tool which both the opposition and government have used, not only now, but from Renny Ottolina [a TV personality who launched a brief campaign for the presidential elections in 1978] to Irene Saez [a former Miss Universe who served as Mayor of Chacao before running for President in 1998]. In the United States, Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood actor. This is a resource that is utilized by each side. Now, if you ask me personally, I don't agree with this approach. But I think that, regardless of this, the approach should respond to an overarching, well-planned strategy which has attempted to analyze and diagnose the reality of Sucre, the reality of Puerto La Cruz [a city in Anzoategui state, where former Major League Baseball player Magglio Ordonez is the PSUV's mayoral candidate], the reality of Baruta. The emergence of a fresh, alternative image that is not linked with the trajectory of partisan struggle can generate a change in the electoral behavior of territories in which the results have been unfavorable to the revolutionary process. I think that this is a response to a strategy, although it isn't the best when we speak of a party in defense of its ideological processes and of the emerging leadership within its base. I think that this generates a strong contradiction that is not sustainable over time, but regarding whether or not this is returning a favor, I doubt it. I warned during Maduro's campaign that concentrating attention on artists and celebrity was a mistake. The problem isn't them [the artists], the problem is focusing the attention on them, and I think this mistake is continuing. I warned that this could generate a troubling win for April 14, and unfortunately that is what happened. I would like to be wrong in saying that if this is maintained for December, we could see a very similar result to that of April 14. I want to insist that the celebrities themselves aren't the problem; the fundamental problem is the strategy, and in the campaign strategy the same errors are being committed as those that were committed on April 14, but now on a municipal level.

What are the expectations for December 8? Who has the capacity to win more mayoral positions?

The opposition will win more positions than they currently have, especially in more urban areas. Chavismo will maintain the condition of losing strength in urban areas; it will gain more positions than the opposition but with a smaller quantity of votes than those of the urban mayorships. The end result will be a new picture of the general vote.

Working Double

Miguel Perez Pirela [the PSUV candidate for Maracaibo] is an extraordinary candidate; the problem is how he got to be a candidate. I insist that the problem is not the candidates themselves, but the method with which they were designated, because it forces them to put in double the effort. Perez will now have to work in two senses: to win the votes to be able to win the mayorship [of Maracaibo] and to consolidate the voters of chavismo, which in some sectors could be discontent because of the expectations of being able to choose their candidate.

Translation by Venezuelanalysis.com