domingo, 8 de julio de 2007

(Part IV) The beauty of a vote no longer secret

Elections do not necessarily mean democracy. This was a very rough lesson for us the Venezuelans, and specially the Venezuelans against the current administration to learn. My hope now is that this lesson can be also learned abroad. Recalls are not impressive constitutional advances, neither they are the re birth of the democracy in the very ancient Greek style we all secretly dream about one or two times in our lives.
They are not an unusual opportunity for the people to participate on major political decisions like they couldn’t do before. They are not the chance of putting out of power someone who hasn’t done things right. Logically speaking they should be all that. I’m going to explain now why I think, from my experience why this is not just a simple distant from theory to reality but even more; it is also a false theory of a perfect democracy in order to hide an also perfect dictatorship.


First, for going to a recall at least in my country, you must sign first requesting such a recall. If you are signing for requesting that recall you are simply already voting not only for the recall to be done, but also for one of the options that this recall pursue.
In other words, If you sign to request a recall that will ask to all Venezuelans if they want Chavez out off the Miraflores office and even more an answer supporting to put Chavez out of power will really by law put Chavez out off power; you are not signing because you are worried about a highly polarized country and you think its necessary for the reconciliation to request a recall and make elections about it, even if the “positive” results are not convenient for you since you support Chavez. Do not be fooled, if you sign to request a recall you are doing it because you from start, want to put Chavez out of power.
Now the reader might ask, what’s my problem about this simple obvious fact? Why am I wasting lines making people notice about it? It is for outstand that the recall, in theory and in praxis, if it requires to pick up signatures; then from the very beginning violates the democratic principle that stands the vote should always be secret.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that. Because of that, something as horrible as the political discrimination started from the “Tascón list” happened. To sign in those conditions is to register in a black list.
Let’s say that in theory the CNE (electoral institution) should keep those lists in secret and those lists can’t be spread outside under any circumstances. Still, the CNE has to validate each and every one of these signatures, to make sure that those signatures are from Venezuelans or nationalized voters legally registered. Then, still, the CNE knows who signed and who didn’t.
The principle of the secret vote, as far as I know doesn’t stands “The vote should always be secret except for the institution in charge of the elections” or “A secret vote means your vote cannot be spread”, or “A secret vote means your vote can be known but yet not used for discriminate you or violate your civil rights on anyway”.
No! The vote should be secret, period. And should be secret for each and every one of the people around you, the institution, the governors, the party’s... The principle of the secret vote stands that you are the only one who can know about your vote. You and no one else and you can trust on this issue in order to vote freely, only under the commands of your own conscience.
In that way is truly the principle of the secret vote (and not the “capta-huellas” machines) the one that should guarantee the principle of “one voter, one vote” since if a vote remains secret it also remains although not entirely free of influences, yet free of menaces.
I still punch myself in the conscience thinking about how I didn’t notice this before, and yet we didn’t made demonstrations against the approval of such a figure in the constitution and what was even more irresponsible, we try to make use of that figure, and we signed without counting that it so obviously broke the principle of the secret votes; even hiding the signatures inside the CNE (electoral institution) doors.


My second argument for calling a recall a false theory of a perfect democracy that on the other hand is favorable to non democratic practice (if it not a non democratic practice itself) goes beyond than that. I read something like this once on some Moscovici works about the relations between dictators such as Stalin and Hitler and the masses who supported them; and now I’m going to complete those arguments I once read (probably from some other authors but right now he’s the only one who come backs to my mind) with things I have seen and experienced here in Venezuela.
It goes like this: in normal elections the voter has the freedom of choose between loads of choices (even if its centered at the end on two candidates as it commonly happens) and this choices (even if they are only two) are real choices; are one candidate or another, one specific project or another.
The recall only gives the voter the freedom to confirm or reject a previously made proposal. It doesn’t give the voter the option of make a stance about an alternative choice or to design projects from those choices. Seeing it that way it is a much more limited way of vote, and therefore less or not at all democratic.
Instead of putting the power from the hands of the governors till the hands of the people, instead of being a tool that allows the voter to really change its destiny; the recalls at the end are only mechanism for legitimate or not, a certain person, a certain issue. Then don’t translate into anything else. They allow the voter to take off the power from a certain governor, but never allow the voter to choose an alternative power.
In best cases the person is removed from the office or the action is not done at least at the moment; but the same structure of power remains despite the whole voting process and it remains with the same amount of power and the same amount of legitimacy since even if it lost, it allowed to make the recall itself and therefore is more democratic (the famous argument behind the affirmation that that stands the good Chavez dared to face the count of the voters against his administration in a recall process).
In worse cases, the current power can even increase the amount of power and legitimacy it once had (the argument behind that affirmation that counts the victory Chavez has earn from many elections process).


My third argument for saying that a recall is a fake democracy in theory as it is in praxis is more simple and practical. Most democracies limits by principle even, the rule period of each and every one of the mayors, governors and presidents to a certain amount of years (four, five… depends on the case).
This law obeys two reasons: one, a principle which stands that the power is a vice just as drugs or cigarettes and therefore can’t be hold for the same person (even if it is Mother Therese) for too long without being corrupted; and two that in case certain governor has made a bad job the people have the chance to choose a different governor once that period is completed and this period its short enough to not let people stand the bad consequences of a bad government for too long.
Probably the intentions of making the figure of a recall obeys to the very same reason, and even farther because it judges that the periods (already short ones) normally given to a certain governor are too long to stand if the governor is really that bad.
But from where I see it, half of the constitutional period is also way too short to let any governor actually do something and way too short for us to see the results of their administration. So instead letting the administration work, why not ask for a recall, spend loads of money on another elections process and change the rulers any time we want to because we just simply don’t like the guy. Oh… the consequences for the stability of any political system are not exactly hard to be seen, are they?

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