Archive for December 2nd, 2006

Last minute thoughts and non-predictions about tomorrow

December 2, 2006

(Elecciones3D) I will be posting tomorrow throughout the day if I have something interesting to say. I am preparing for the worst scenario which is that lines will be like those of the recall referendum vote, when it took me ten hours in line to be able to vote. I will be able to post from the line, but clearly there is little I could tell you except express my frustration. If I have time, I will go around the city and take pictures.

I certainly hope the vote is clean and as transparent as can be tomorrow. To me for this to happen, there can’t be any sudden rules changes like there were in the recall vote in 2004. There are four particular aspects that will signal to me that the vote was not tampered with:

—Voting Machines are disconnected all day and only connected after the “original” tally is printed.
—Voting hours are not stretched even after no lines are seen outside the voting centers.
—All audits are carried out in the 54% of the tables.
—All CNE Directors are allowed into the totalization room.

If these four conditions are met and no rule changes are made, then I will believe and abide by the results. That is what democracy is about.

As to what I think will happen, this is the first Presidential election in which I have felt somewhat disoriented. I used to be friends with a pollster which passed away in 2001. He was not only a good pollster, but he was very bright and honest. One of his most important characteristics was that his polls were private, so that he did not look for the limelight. And while he got the last five Presidential elections right, including the top three places in 1993, the only pollster to do so, he was always willing to question his data.

My friend was always worried because he never got abstention right after the 1984 election. This bothered him a lot and he tried various techniques to attempt to reduce this effect. He also did surveys trying to understand why people were ashamed of saying they were not going to vote or why they would not say they were going to vote for a certain candidate, like in the 1993 election in which AD candidate Claudio Fermin had 10% in the polls and was slated to come in fourth place, but came in second with 23%.

I bring all of this up, because polls have been coming in all over the place, from Rosales behind by 20% to Rosales ahead by a couple of points. Typically, polls made at homes give Chavez a larger lead than those using methods that try to separate fear or embarrasment from the equation.

But the point is that no matter which technique is used, polls say that abstention will be low, between 15% and 20%. And I simply don’t find this credible, because as I said the other day, when Hugo Chavez was first elected President in 1998, abstention was 36.55%, it jumped to 43.7% when he was reelected under the new Constitution and dropped to 33% in the recall vote.

To me, there is absolutely no reason to think the numbers will improve. In fact, my guess is that they will be closer to those of 2000 than anything, given the level of apathy I have found on both sides, when we compare today to the recall vote. However, it is also true that enthusiasm for Rosales’ candidacy has picked up significantly. (I knew three people who were not going to vote tomorrow one month ago, two of them have changed their minds). The same can not be said for the Chavista crowds that have been much smaller than those of the recall vote and the 2000 and 1998 election.

Having said that, it is my conviction that today the number of pro-Chavez registered voters in Venezuela is higher than the number of pro-Rosales voters. What I have no clue about is what they plan to do tomorrow. Thus, it is my belief that abstention will decide the outcome. High abstention levels will favor Rosales, low abstention levels will favor Chavez. Why? Because the opposition hard core is today larger than the Chavista hard core and because given the profile of voters for each camp, abstention has always been higher among the lowest social strata, where Chavez has more support. thus, at or below 33% abstention I expect a Chavez win, while higher levels should tip it over to Rosales.

The Chavista machinery will be hard at work tomorrow, much like the Rosales machinery. The First one though has the advantage of having access to real time data about how many people have voted and where. That is why I would view keeping the polls open until very late as a trick: The law clearly states that after 4 PM only poll stations with lines should remain open, if the CNE orders all of them to stay open, it will be because the Chavista machinery will be going all over to pressure those that have not voted into going.

Going back to abstention levels, it is my belief that what we have seen in rallies reflects precisely that: The pro-Chavez voters are no longer as motivated as they used to be, while the pro-Rosales crowd seem much more enthusiastic. In the end, time may be what Rosales lacked. he only had 10% in August and he has managed to make the race close. With an additional month he may have won even with low abstention levels. Tomorrow by this time, we will likely know if it was sufficient or not…

Some Venezuelan Electoral Oddities

December 2, 2006

(Elecciones3D)Some strange things about the candidate in tomorrow’s elections:

—While people only talk about Rosales and Chavez, a total of 22 candidates registered to run. Of these seven withdrew and one, Benjamin Rausseo “Er Conde” was the only one to file so that any vote for him will go to somebody else (Rosales). It was actually his party that did this.

—All candidates were backed by one part, except for Rosales and Chavez. Rosales was backed by 41 parties while Chavez was backed by 25. You can vote for any of those parties, the difference is that parties that do not get above a certain number of votes will have to gather signatures again to be a valid party. I think the process has to be made tougher.

—Candidate Jesus Caldera Infante quit and said that his votes would go for Rosales, except that he said it on Nov. 30th. and the deadline was Nov. 23d. so that votes for him will go to nobody. This proves how unqualified he was to run if he can’t keep a simple date in mind.

—The most original name by a candidate was that of Venezuela Da Silva. The first woman to register to run, she could have exploited her name well: “Vote for Venezuela”, but she did not. She was backed by a party called Nuevo Orden Social (NOS), which means new Social order. Venezuela did little campaigning, but the one time I saw her she said she supported President Chavez, which makes me wonder why she ran at all.

—The most clever name for a political party has to go to that of candidate Luis Reyez, whose party is called J.O.V.E.N which according to him stands for Juventud Organizada de Venezuela. JOVEN means young and Juventud Youth, I just wonder why the empahsis on youth since Reyes is around 50 years old based on his ID number.

—If you add the pages of ads for both Rosales and Chavez, their cost alone exceeded the small amount allowed by the CNE of Bs. 16 billion (less than US$ 8 million). On top of that Chavez outspent Rosales by 18 to 1 on pages and appeared on TV 15 times more than Rosales, demonstrating what a joke the CNE is when it wants to look the other way.

Check the Mesa where you vote on the Internet, it will save you time

December 2, 2006

(Elecciones3D) Lots of rumors, emails floating around, most of it truly useless. The one piece of useful information I got is that the table (mesa) where you vote is no longer based on the last digit of your ID number, but you can actually go to the CNE page and it will tell you your mesa, page on the cuaderno (notebook) and line number. Write it down and it will save you time as you will go straight to your mesa number.

As an example, below is the information where President Chavez votes, as you can see he votes in Mesa 2 and his registry is in page 21, line 185:


Consulta para Electores: Con tan sólo ingresar su número de cédula, Ud. podrá saber en que centro de votación le corresponde votar.

Ingreso de datos

Introduzca su número de cédula:

Cédula: V-4258228
Parroquia: PQ. 23 DE ENERO

Mesa: 2
Página: 21
Línea: 185

New York Times story on crime, poverty and the election

December 2, 2006

(Elecciones3D)The NYT’s Simon Romero focuses on crime getting that part of the story right (which you have read here many times), but where did those numbers for poverty come from? :

“Meanwhile, crime has exploded. According to human rights groups and a Unesco
study, Venezuela has the highest rate of gun-related deaths of 57
countries surveyed — far surpassing Brazil, one of the most violent
nations in Latin America.”

“While much of the recent attention has focused on killings among the
privileged, the vast majority of homicides in Venezuela occur in the
country’s poorest communities — Mr. Chávez’s strongest base.”

“Though the accuracy of official statistics is sometimes questioned by
the government’s opponents, the channeling of oil revenues seems to
have alleviated poverty somewhat in recent years. The Venezuelans
living in poverty has fallen to 34 percent from 44 percent in 1998, the
year before Mr. Chávez took office, according to government figures.”

“Meanwhile, however, a history of far graver abuses by the police has
gone unchecked, some crime analysts note. Last year, the attorney
general’s office said it was investigating 5,520 presumed executions by
the police between 2000 and 2005, involving 6,127 victims. Of the
police officials implicated, prosecutors have filed charges against
517, and fewer than 100 had been convicted, according to Human Rights Watch.”

experiencing the worst crime wave in modern Venezuelan history,” said
Marcos Tarre Briceño, director of the nongovernmental organization
Secure Venezuela, “and the government barely acknowledges its inability
to control its own police forces.”

Mr. Romero should pick up a copy of “Venezuela: An agreement to reach development” where for less than twenty bucks he would have understood well what official statistics say and why. Moreover, in that book he could have found the names of dozens of experts, both pro and against Chavez, who he could have gotten in touch with to get that part of the story right.

As for Sunday’s result, let’s see if it is or not such an easy win, I hope Romero does not talk mostly to Datanalisis, weren’t they the ones predicting a Salas Romer victory a week before the election in 1998?