(How I felt Monday morning)
And so we lost…
An effective and efficient operative to bring out the vote, led to the highest turnout of recent elections and a surprisingly large Chávez win. But turnout was not the whole story, even if it was very significant and Chavismo reverted the trend that opposition voters have less abstention than Chavista voters.
The story is told by the facts: Capriles won the large cities, but lost the states where they were located, proving again that the rural vote is hard to get for the opposition. And despite the blackouts, the inflation, the lack of delivery and Chávez’ cancer, the people were still willing to risk another term with Hugo. Capriles did a valiant effort, but in so many of those rural areas, the media is tightly controlled by the Government, making it difficult to turn around the Government’s message that Capriles is a right wing Dictator in the making. And a majunche!
And the abuse of power was definitely a factor. Cháez had unlimited resources, plus a myriad dirty tricks up his sleeve, from null votes, to shutting down the Miami consulate, to the Unidad Democratica change in candidate, every bit counted, even if it looks today that all of the abuses were largely unnecessary.
Chávez grew his votes from 2006 8%, while the opposition managed a 33% gain. All of this despite a 66% increase in the price of oil during the intervening six years. For all the PSF talk about improving conditions, the truth is that the improvements in the standard of living of the poor since 2006 can barely be seen in monetary terms, despite the growth in the Government’s wealth. And if marginal increases in purchasing power were meager, infrastructure, crime and health care deteriorated.
But Chávez gives hope. Chávez enchants people. Chávez makes symbols more important than realities. I guess if you have not lived in the squalor most people live in in Venezuela, this is all hard to understand. I certainly don’t, I just know that this is not the way out of the problems. An economic adjustment will come sooner rather than later. Maybe oil will go to $200 a barrel and save the day once again for Mr. Chávez. But all of the distortions are in place. Ready to explode. This is the new oil windfall economics for countries with irresponsible Governments. Look at Iran’s economy, it gives you economic deja vu how similar things are there and here. Both will blow up, some day…
And those that are looking now for Chávez’ demise, should just wait a week or two. With the mandate obtained in the Presidential election, Chávez is likely to seek a Constitutional amendment such that the Vice-President becomes the President in the first four years after Jan. 10th. 2013, changing the current Constitution, which requires an immediate general election for President. Maybe easier, Chávez will just change the article about blood relations, so that his brother can become VP and the Chávez dynasty will have been born.
A note on pollsters. They did a terrible job. the worst since I began following some of them. I can’t buy a prediction on the difference that was correct, when the undecided was one and a half times that difference. Consultores 21 really blew it this time, for the first time since I have been following them. Datos was doing a good job until its last flash report in which the trend had reversed. In some sense to me, Varianzas was the best pollster, saying Chávez would win by 2%, with 2% undecided.
Now comes the tough part, holding the MUD together. They hopefully will stick together until December for the election of Governors. Capriles did a magnificent job, improved his speech and captured the imagination of 45% of the Venezuelan population. But it was not enough. We now have the elections for Governors in early December and the referendum on the same day could be the biggest threat to a good performance by the opposition. Capriles shoudl not even think about running for Miranda, he shoudl be above the fray for now, he is the leader of the opposition. It is clear that Chavistas vote for Chávez the idol, not for complex ideas or regional PSUV candidates. The referendum will be all about the idol and he could take the Governors to victory on his coattails.
I hope I am wrong.