Yesterday the Electoral Board announced the final tally of new registered voters and the numbered seems to have been a surprise to both pro-Chavez forces and the opposition. Last year, the electoral registry was open and 450,000 new voters registered. This year over two half a million registered in the same period, but somehow nobody seems to know why it happened or even understand why so many registered. In fact, the tsunami of new voters was apparently under the radar during the registration process.
Chavez and his supporters had been claiming all along that they would give new national ID cards to one million people, some of the new immigrants nationalized in a rush in the last few months, which would turn around and register to vote for Chavez. The opposition criticized the rush, but said that it did not matter, given the secrecy of the process; voters would vote however they wanted.
Last week, the Electoral Board, which is clearly pro-Chavez, decided that it was unnecessary to increase the number of voting centers. Then the tally for new registered voters comes out and it is the Chavisats that appear to be nervous. They call for the CNE to clean the Electoral Register of dead people or people who should not be in it. They ask that more polling stations be opened and the President of the CNE calls for it, despite the fact that last week he voted not to do it. So, what is going on?
The truth is I donít know and I have yet to hear a coherent explanation. In fact, the opposition has said nothing on the issue, which suggests either that they are not worried; that they have no clue or that they are incompetent. But letís look at some possibilities and the numbers:
1) Conspiracy Theory #1: The Chavistas organized themselves and between handing out national ID cards and nationalizing foreigners they managed to get two million people registered.
It could be true, but they always talked about one million and seem very concerned by the new number. Both publicly and privately pro-Chavez leaders have been confidently using the one million new voter number as their trump card up to very recently.
2) Conspiracy Theory #2: The opposition quietly worked on people registering, getting the message out.
Also hard to believe. The opposition does not have the resources to carry out such a campaign and there were no signs of it either.
3) Spontaneous pro-Chavez theory #1: Millions of Chavistas went to register to defend the revolution.
Possible, but why is Chavez command campaign, named ĒComando MaisantaĒ so concerned about the ďpurityĒ of the registry? Why did Carrasquero and his mates at the CNE vote against new polling stations last week? Even Chavez has been making statements on the subject, suggesting they are surprised and concerned about the final number.
4) Spontaneous anti-Chavez theory #1: Millions of opposition members registered to vote against Chavez.
Possible, but why didnít they register last year in order to sign the petition for the recall if they were so strongly against Chavez? Could people have been sufficiently outraged by the maneuvers to stop the opposition to gather the signatures, to decide to register? I certainly find it hard to believe.
I have tried to examine the numbers and see if they reveal anything. The Table shows the number of new registered voters for each state, sorted in descending from the state having the highest percentage number of new registered voters to the lowest. The column on the extreme right shows the percentage of voters that cast their vote for Chavez in the 2000 election. To see if there is any pattern, I divided states in two groups: those in red were the top twelve states percentage wise in giving their vote to Chavez, the other twelve in blue were the bottom twelve.
Nothing too clear comes out of this. Of the top twelve states in increased percentage of new voters, half were in the top twelve percentage wise in the 2000 Presidential election.
The most anti-Chavez state, Zulia, did have the second largest percentage increase in new voters with 35.38% , which could point to 4) or 2). However, one could also say that being a border state it also has a large population of Colombian immigrants that were nationalized and registered to vote. However, other border states should have shown a similar pattern.
The most pro-Chavez state, Aragua, ranked quite low in increasing the number of new voters with only 15.8%, which would go against 1). The same happened in Vargas state, the second state in Chavez support.
Miranda state, where the opposition has good party machinery, via Enrique Mendoza, increased its number of registered voters quite close to the average which would go against 2). Bolivar which was pro-Chavez in 2000 was also average.
Thus, no clear cut pattern arises from this numbers. About the only quantitative conclusion I found which could have some statistical significance is that, given the increased number of voters, if one assumed that each state split the vote exactly like in 2000, Chavez would obtain 1.5% points less than in 2000, because, the weight in the less pro-Chavez states would have increased, giving him a smaller margin. This suggests the new voters favor the opposition slightly, but still gives no explanation for the dramatic increase in new registered voters.
The only important conclusion one can derive from the new registered voters is that it should not be difficult for the opposition now to reach the magic 3.7 million votes in the recall. Before, scenarios with high abstention could lead to a victory by the opposition that would not recall Chavez, reaching this number should no longer be an important issue. In fact, both sides could top it no matter which side wins.
Any ideas from the readers in the comment sections would be very welcome.