Venezuelanalysis editor Gregory Wilpert likens the opposition's decision to withdraw from one of of the country’s most important elections in the past five years to those of Lemings commiting mass suicide. He argues that the surprise last-minute withdrawal of Primero Justicia (PJ), a new conservative freemarket party who had not initially pulled out of the election, has compromised their chances of becoming the strongest opposition party in the country and of their leader Julio Borges to become the opposition candidate to run against Chavez in the December 2006 presidential elections.
Wilpert also emphasises the importance of these national assembly elections for the next five years of Venezuelan politics as the governing pro-Chavez coalition are expected to win the two-thirds majority needed to pass important legislation such as consitutional amendments. He then looks at the concrete complaints of the opposition and exlores other possible explanations for the boycott, such as pressure from the US government.
Finally, Wilpert examines the consequeces of the oppositions' decision in both Venezuela and abroad. In Venezuela, he argues, the short and medium term consequence of the opposition’s boycott will be their disappearance; the only platform the opposition will have after December 4 is the mass media. Internationally, the Bush administration will use the opposition boycott to discredit and de-legitimise the Chavez government, regardless of what the international observers have to say about the vote.
Overall, the 'political suicide' of Venezuela’s opposition is a mixed turn of events; on the one hand, it could mean the end to a failed opposition and the rebirth of normal politics in Venezuela; on the other hand, it could open the door for more destabilisation from outside for both Venezuela and the rest of Latin America.
The US-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) argue that the Venezuelan opposition's decision to pull out is a cynical one designed to spare themselves a humiliating defeat at the polls. They say that the opposition is jeopordising Venezuela's democratic system in its quest to oust the government by any means. Opposition accusations that the government cannot guarantee free and fair elections are false: every election held in Venezuela since Chavez came to power has been extensively monitored, and even the US State Department has been forced to grudgingly validate the authenticity of past results, as their legitimacy was unquestionable.
COHA point out that that the opposition's decision will also have the dangerous side effect of providing anti-Chavez US policymakers with an excuse with which to justify intervening in Venezuela - a policy previously used in Haiti when they used the opposition’s refusal to participate in Haiti’s electoral process to justify the ousting of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide.
Finally, COHA argue that US government will most likely repeat the Venezuelan opposition's accusations of democratic deterioration in the country and the impossibility of free elections occurring without also presenting evidence to support these claims. This will result in further tarnishing the US government's reputation in Latin America.
As with the two analyses sumamarised above, when examining the opposition's decision to boycott today's elections it is hard to justify their actions. By pulling out of the election they have effectively declared the end of their attempts to play by the democratic rules of the game in the search for 'regime change' in Venezuela. With a year left until the presidential elections in December 2006, one can only hope that the opposition show a hitherto lacking maturity and return to the democratic framework, rather than choosing the path of violence and subversion, as they have done on numerous occasions.