Monday, September 14, 2015

Maduro's Election Strategy #6D

Looking forward to the December 6 legislative elections, where the stakes are high, Nicolás Maduro has three main goals:

1. Keep the opposition fragmented
2. Keep voter minds off the economy and other problems
3. Avoid abstention

His recent decisions to convict Leopoldo López, to antagonize Colombia (now including invading its airspace) and to veer away from public rapprochement with the United States, should all be seen as part of an overall strategy of doing as well as possible in the elections.

Maduro has a legitimate beef with regard to the Colombian border, but the escalation is disproportionate. This isn't really about protecting the Venezuelan economy, but planting a seed of doubt about the origins of the economy's distortions. For the same reason, it is dangerous to be too friendly with the U.S. government because he needs also to blame the U.S. for being close to the Colombian right, which he accuses of economic sabotage.

Government opponents routinely label it is totalitarian, which involves twisting the word into something unrecognizable that simply means "governments I hate." Totalitarian governments don't fret over elections, and Maduro is fretting. Perhaps more than anything else he needs people who lean Chavista but who are not hardcore supporters to vote rather than just stay home. This is the first legislative election without Hugo Chávez, and Maduro's political skills pale in comparison.

In general, if in the next two months Maduro gets social media aflutter or makes headlines (in Latin America and/or here) think #6D.


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