Archive for September 11th, 2010

Venezuelan Parliamentary elections two weeks before the event

September 11, 2010

I haven’t said much about the upcoming elections, Daniel and Quico, know much more about the subject quantitatively than I do, so I have enjoyed reading their projections and insights. I am a little concerned that the people around me are somewhat over optimistic about the upcoming results, they read that Chavez’ popularity is below 40% and interpret it to mean the opposition has 60%. But nothing is further from the truth, the other 60% is composed of a block slightly below Chavez’ size and then there are the Ni-Nis, the undecided and the apathetic, all of which will be key in what happens.

I view this election as an incremental step, but somehow people view it as a deciding one. This election will be one more step towards a more balanced country and yes, a more democratic one, not only because the other side, known as the opposition, will occupy a larger and more space in the Assembly, but because as people are more and disappointed with the revolution, they are more willing to tolerate and listen to other points of view.

Case in point is the picture above, taken today, of opposition candidates openly campaigning in the 23 de Enero parish, something which would have been unthinkable three or four years ago. And they went there with concrete proposals for urban renewal, protected not by a bunch of thugs or bodyguards, but by the fact that their increasing support in what once was a Chavista stronghold, protects them from abuse as threatening or harassing them would only give them more votes.

Because of the gerrymandering and redistricting, this is a very difficult election to predict. Chavez is using all of his resources and those of the State without morals and this reflects in the polls, he has been going up in the last eight weeks, but the scandals, inflation and skepticism about the President  make it difficult for him to recover his lost popularity in the last two weeks.

I am in the 50/50 camp, the vote will split evenly which will favor Chavismo, but I know that the final number will be a matter of how motivated Chavismo is to go out and vote. I am assuming it is less motivated than in the February 2009 referendum, but not as lazy as in the 2007 one, thus my 50% split prediction. I do hope I am wrong.

But one has to view this election more in terms of goals. These are for em the major ones:

Base Scenario: Opposition obtains enough votes to stop Chavismo from having a two thirds majority.

This should be the most basic goal of the opposition, to obtain enough Deputies such that Chavez can no longer Legislate by whim as he has done in the last five years. Not getting to this level would represent a dramatic defeat for the opposition. Remarkably, this would occur if the opposition got below 47% of the vote, showing how rigged the system is, with 47% of the vote, you get less than 33% of the Deputies in the National Assembly. It looks like the opposition will achieve this.

Second Best Case: The opposition obtains 50% of the popular vote.

Even if obtaining 50%+ of the popular vote will only give the opposition around 43% of the 165 Deputies, it would send a strong warning to Chavismo and would show the world that Chavez’ famous legitimacy does not exist as even in the face of a popular defeat, he retains control of the National Assembly.

Third Best Case: The opposition obtains a majority of the Deputies.

This happens around 53-54% of the popular vote and would be quite a dramatic victory for the opposition. Chavismo, which has been accustomed to not talking to anyone, will have to sit down. This will shake the confidence of the most ardent Chavista and will allow the opposition to open investigations on all cases of interest. Obviously Chavez will ignore and bypass the National Assembly, but the visibility of the opposition will increase dramatically.

Can this happen? Certainly. Large Chavista abstention in key areas of the interior of the country could swing the majority to the opposition. The opposition is motivated, we just don’t know how motivated Chavismo is or isn’t or if it is distributed geographically to produce this result.

Dramatic Opposition Victory: Opposition wins 66% of the National Assembly allowing it to change “revolutionary” laws.

This scenario is possible, only because of the redistricting and gerrymandering that has taken place, the opposition could reach this with as little as 58% of the popular vote. This is unlikely to happen unless disappointment is such that Chavismo stays at home. I don’t see it being that large.

I personally believe today that we will get the second case, a 50/50 split and around 60-plus opposition Deputies out of 165. The precise details will depend on abstention, with abstention on the Chavista side being more critical than that of the opposition.

Will update right before the election my prediction and any changes.