David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernáiz make a very interesting point about the December Venezuelan municipal elections. The opposition has been hammering on the fact that the presidential election was fraudulent. Henrique Capriles' completely failed regional tour was intended to broadcast that message and generate sympathy. Yet at the same time, they want to make the municipal elections into a referendum on Nicolás Maduro, which means basically accepting the fact that elections in Venezuela are worthwhile.
They argue that seeing the vote as a protest will bring people out, and that both sides run risks:
Thus the December 8, nationwide municipal elections pose a set of opportunities and risks for both sides. The Maduro government’s candidates will surely win most municipalities, but if it loses the national popular vote it will effectively have lost its first “plebiscite.” This would leave the opposition strengthened and in good position to seek a recall referendum on Maduro in two years. Maduro’s standing as Chavez’s successor would be seriously weakened and probably challenged by other leaders within Chavismo.
However, if Chavismo wins most municipalities and the national vote, it could be disastrous for the opposition. Capriles’ leadership would be questioned, and opposition voters would be demoralized thereby complicating an eventual push for a recall referendum.
True enough. But I think there is another risk to the opposition. How many times can you participate in elections while claiming they are fraudulent? I've argued before that boycotting elections is counterproductive. If you keep voting, though, then you do have to accept losing. I would expect Maduro and others in the government to make the most of that.
I wonder, further, to what degree the opposition is split between those who believe in the fraud and those who just think they lost. At what point do they splinter?