Update 3:30 PM: Participation has improved at this time, it is running 4% behind October only. Lara, Anzoategui and the Capital District have much higher participation, but in this range things look difficult.
Update 1:47PM: I am told by reliable people that at 1 PM the percentage of voters that had cast their vote was running 10% behind the same number in October.
I just took my usual spin through Caracas on election day, driving from Petare to Caricuao to see what was happening. What I saw was absolutely no lines anywhere, not even groups of people in front of voting centers, of which I must have seen two or three dozen. In fact, since I remembered that the biggest lines last October were in Plaza La Candelaria in downtown Caracas, I went there just to check, but the result was the same, no lines at all where in October there were multiple lines:
Traffic was a mess in certain parts of the city. It took me longer to go around because there is an increasing trend to block an ever larger area around the voting center. In fact, in Avenida Romulo Gallegos in Montecristo, they blocked off two blocks of that avenue, which is an important street, particularly on Sundays when Cota Mil is closed until 1 PM. Took me a while to get out of that mess.
In fact, the whole thing is so ridiculous, that while I would have had a hard time taking picture of the lines, if they had been there, directly in front of most voting centers, I had no problem stopping in front of the Miraflores Presidential Palace and take a picture. The Guard did not like it, but he barely moved anyway:
There were many reports of abuses. The main one was that of the “accompanied” vote, whereby someone in the voting stand accompanies voters to make sure they are voting the “right” way. This type of vote is allowed for older people and those with disabilities, but the person that accompanies the voter can only do it once and has to sign a form. This was not being done in many polling stations, particularly in Zulia State and TV was showing videos of this being done.
But the immutable Tibisay Lucena, Head of the Electoral Board, came on TV and said everything was peachy and rosy. That the only incident she had to report was our people eating their ballots after casting the vote and some irregularities, only a few, in assisted voting.
I did see lots of motorcyclists in groups wearing red shirts and making noise, passing in some cases near voting centers , which is forbidden. There were also many trucks with improvised speakers on top, encouraging people to go and vote, no matter who they were going to vote for. I took a picture of one of them thru the car window, at the edge of La Urbina and Petare,which I was not planning to post:
except that right after I took the picture the police pulled them out, harassing them about campaigning. I stopped to help out, which one of the cops did not like, telling me to “Circulate, citizen” (Circule, ciudadano). Right at that point a Chavista truck with songs promoting Maduro went by and people started yelling at them that they did not dare stop the Chavistas and the cops decided to leave (Not going after the Chavistas). In fact, as I write this, the son of the Rector of Universidad Metropolitana, a good friend, is detained for driving in one of these “promote the vote” trucks.
Meanwhile in El Silencio, you can see the PSUV post behind the fountains, where four or five people were distributing propaganda, which is not allowed on election day:
Everyone is explaining away the lack of lines as saying that people have voted three times using the same system since October. Others say that this is because the opposition is staggering the voting according to age. But I went to Chavista areas and just did not see lines anywhere, which leads me to believe that abstention will be high. Remember that prior to 2006, abstention levels tended to be closer to 40% than 20%. Does Chavez’ absence from the ballot indicate we will go back to those levels now?
I just don’t know, but we will know in a few hours.