Published on 15 September? 2017 by studentvoices.co.uk
Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly shines a beacon for real Democracy | Jay Sutherland
Look at the UK today, an increasingly right wing conservative minority government narrowly clenches onto to power due to an alliance with the DUP who got less than 1% of the overall vote. For Britain to be called a democracy would be laughable. If we look to Latin America and more specifically Venezuela we can see a real example of people powered democracy in the form of the Constituent Assembly election.
The one major thing that is lacking within politics today is proper representation - at the heart of democracy people’s views must be properly represented. It means that those who are experiencing hardship and the problems of society can share their experiences and shake things up. However after the recent General Election in the UK only 32% of the total number of MP’s are female compared to women making up 52% of the population, it’s the same story with the BME community and a shocking amount of people who attended private schools. It’s clear Westminster is completely out of touch with Britain today and the working class majority is pushed out.
Many would argue reforming the voting system would solve this, however I believe we need to simply go beyond calls for a PR system - Venezuela is paving the way for this. Venezuelans will vote on July 30 to elect representatives for the National Constituent Assembly, an initiative from President Nicolas Maduro which was announced on May Day to further develop the country's democracy and to help ease tensions with the opposition. Also to help build much of the progress that was achieved with equality and workplace unions under Hugo Chavez. But this election is different to what I have ever seen before compared to western style ‘democracy’. The election gives different sectors of society the chance to choose their own representatives which will guarantee fair representation from society as a whole and to argue for their specific interests.
This includes: eight representatives for indigenous peoples, the disabled five representatives, students twenty-four representatives, pensioners twenty-eight representatives and workers seventy-nine representatives divided among nine different areas of employment among more sectors. This shows that Venezuela is giving a direct voice to groups within society that would often suffer from the effects of politics are now becoming a part of it. Imagine if this was done in Britain today, instead of a burden of debt students would have actual representation to tackle issues that affect them.
The right wing opposition in Venezuela which we hear about so much on the mainstream media calls this unconstitutional and undemocratic. But their vocal objection shows that they have very little support among Venezuela’s working class and more support among businesses that rightly lack influence in this style of election. The opposition has even called for violent rebellion against this election and has refused to take part - what they are really doing is fighting any proposals for peace on the street and a chance for direct democracy. The media shows the right wing opposition as fighting for their right to protest but in reality they are more focused on blocking the streets, stopping public transportation and preventing people reaching vital services such as hospitals. News services such as the BBC and the New York Times for example have constantly shown Venezuela in a negative light. A few weeks ago people voted throughout the whole day for a poll leading up to the Constituent Assembly but no mainstream media outlet reported on it; instead they reported on an opposition informal plebiscite in which only opposition supporters voted in. The press flurried to say that this is ‘’weakened Mr. Maduro’s plan to appoint an assembly of handpicked supporters’’. Not only was this not recognised at all and had no constitutional status and that millions of working class Venezuelan’s supported the calls for this assembly in which as stated above different sectors of society got to pick representatives, hardly ‘’handed picked supporters’’. So called progressive news services such as The Guardian and Al Jazeera didn't cover it any better. Additionally, none of the mainstream media said that only 37% of people voted against the assembly despite it being pictured as the people of Venezuela opposing their government - quite the opposite if you look into things. All of the media also managed to ignore the millions of working class people who turned out to support the idea of this assembly.
Compare Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver and working class born Hugo Chávez with Theresa May, David Cameron or the majority of privately educated millionaires who make up the political elite and you will see the great divide between democracy in Venezuela and the UK.