Some Lessons From The Recent Parliamentary Elections In Venezuela

December 12, 2015


There are many fascinating elements that can be derived from last Sunday’s Parliamentary elections. And there are lessons for both sides, which should be absorbed and digested accordingly. Since many of them are unrelated, I will make a list of some interesting ones:

-The magnitude of fraud that can be accomplished via the voting machines is by now limited

In 2004, the Government manipulated the vote in various ways. The two most important factors were the votes “added” in the absence of opposition voters and the use of multiple ID’s to vote. My estimate based on the many technical papers that were published is that that fraud could not amount to more than 5%, which implied that the opposition lost the recall vote at the time, albeit by a much smaller margin.

In time, the opposition has learned to plug up many of these holes.There have been two strategies: One, to have witnesses at as many polling stations as possible. In the recent election, the opposition obtain credentials for witnesses which exceeded those of Chavismo by 2,000 people. Moreover, there were numerous reports that Chavista witnesses did not show up and were replaced by opposition volunteers.

Secondly and more importantly, special attention was paid to the audit process in polling stations where the opposition has little presence and where important candidacies would be decided. Around 100,000 volunteers showed up at closing time, not only to be present for the audit, but also to demand its closure if there were no voters in line. One of the engineers involved in this project estimates that 46 of the 51 Deputies they targeted for election were successful in part due to this effort.

Both of these efforts increased the percentage of paper “Actas” or tallies the opposition had, which allowed it to win the 112th. Deputy by having copies of all tallies in Circuit 3 of Aragua which was won by a scant 83 votes. Chavismo “claimed” up to the last minute there were additional actas, which simply did not exist.

-The vote is indeed secret

While there was a time that Government workers feared that the CNE could tell how you voted, with more and more elections people have learned that they can vote for the opposition and nothing happens to them. Chavismo helped made this clear when bosses in various Government offices began asking their workers to bring a photograph of their ballot, which confirmed their suspicion they could not tell how you voted. Numerous people in offices, using social media and the like made offers to “photoshop” voting ballots to give the boss the correct picture. Additionally, the opposition made a campaign to emphasize that taking pictures of your ballot is illegal. The threats by Government officials were thus significantly reduced and the fact that there is no persecution now, is proving to people that they simply can’t know

-Chavismo is still a force, but lost a lot of ground

Many people have been shocked by the fact that despite inflation, lines, corruption and scarcity, slightly more than 40% of the Venezuelan voters cast it in favor of Chavismo. This is indeed a large number, but it is magnified by abstention. There were essentially two numbers that pollsters had a difficult time being precise about: How many people would abstain and how many of the pro-Chavez voters would cast their vote for mostly unknown opposition candidates. The two questions are inter-twinned, logic says in a highly Chavista state, smaller abstention means that more Chavistas will cast their vote. It also says that in a highly opposition state, the smaller the abstention, the more the votes for the opposition.

However, in reality what happened was that the opposition did well in Chavista states because people wanted to express their disenchantment with Chavismo and in many pro-opposition states, abstention was high, suggesting that Chavistas simply decided not to go out and vote for the opposition.

It is not easy to generalize, but let’s look first at the overall numbers. Pollsters were expecting abstention to be much like that of the 2010 Parliamentary election, which was 33.6%, but it turned out to be much lower coming in at 25.8%. Thus, 74.2% of the voters cast their vote nationwide.

But let’s take Miranda Circuit 2, where I vote, a strongly opposition area. Only 66.4% of the voters cast their vote there and Freddy Guevara won handily, despite the low turnout. But, in general, in Chavista states where the opposition did well, abstention was on average lower than 25% (except in Bolivar), while in most Chavista States where it did not do well abstention was higher than 30% (Except Portuguesa and Yaracuy). Thus, the opposition tended to do better than expected in Chavista states with large urban populations (Bolivar, Anzoategui, Vargas and less well in the very rural states (see previous post)

And to me it suggests that those that abstained tended to be more pro-Chavez voters, who disapprove of Maduro but could not set their hearts in voting for an opposition candidate. Thus, in the end, Chavismo got 40-plus percent of the vote, but of those that did not vote, a larger fraction were in the camp that is pro-Chavez, but disapproves of the job Maduro is doing.

-Violence was, once again, not a factor.

Every election since I was young (Yes, that long!) I have heard the fears of widespread violence breaking out. It has never materialized. People waited peacefully for the results. People received the results peacefully. Yes, there were some attempts at violence as the polls closed, but they were quickly dissipated.

-A recall vote would not be a slam dunk

Many people think a recall referendum should be a priority for the incoming National Assembly. Such a referendum is possible starting either immediately or in April 2016, depending on the TSJ. Up to April 2017 a recall vote would be followed by a Presidential election. After that the Vice-President would take over for the President and complete his or her term.

There are two conditions for a recall to be successful: One, that you get 50% of the vote. Two, that you get more than 50% than the person obtained when he was first elected. Well, we got 7.726 million votes on Dec. 6th., but Maduro got 7.587 million votes in 2013. This means only 139 thousand votes, a bit too close for (my) comfort.

There may be other routes that achieve the same purpose.

-So far, the military has been institutional

Yes, I qualified it with a so far, because I just don’t know how close (or how far) we were from an attempt not to recognize the results. The same way that I don’t know whether something is or not cooking at this time. But in most polling stations where the military vote, the opposition turned out to be victorious. Por ahora (For now), the military has decided to be institutional.

That is definitely good news!

I will close here, probably too long to keep your interest. I will post in the next few days about what I expect, hope and can predict about the next couple of months in Venezuela.

24 Responses to “Some Lessons From The Recent Parliamentary Elections In Venezuela”

  1. Ira Says:

    And NOW the admn is challenging the results, and making ARESTS!

  2. Ira Says:

    I can’t believe some of the stuff I’m hearing:

    Compromise? Reconciliation with PSUV? Negotiations?

    Are you fucking KIDDING!?

    If MUD doesn’t recognize that this is, and has been, total war (without the guns), they’re fucking nuts. Especially since 90% of the world community is behind THEM.

    If they don’t take this opportunity to push hard…and push hard at every turn…forget it. They ain’t gonna accomplish shit.

    And that’s what VZ is going to get and deserve–total SHIT.

    • Ira Says:

      And Leopoldo agrees:

      No compromise–Maduro has to GO!

      VZ has its own George Washington, and too many Venezuelans don’t even fucking know it. Because he was educated at HARVARD, and only in Venezuela could that be considered a negative.

      If I don’t see conflict, and controversy, and inevitably some violence in the streets in the coming months, then Chavismo wins.

  3. Javier Caceres Says:

    Two additional things I would add:

    1. Now for the first time since it’s existence we will see how does the “best Constitution of the world” really works

    2. Old folks will tell you that they used to vote “cruzado” or crossed meaning they would vote one party for president and it’s opposing party for legislation seats. Maybe some of this popular wisdom of not putting all of the power of government on one party explains part of the win.


  4. M Rubio Says:

    I was excited about the election results but am now sliding back into dispair as I see no easy way forward. I guess I just don’t have confidence that the new Asamblea Nacional will accomplish anything meaningful. Time will tell I guess, and I so hope I’m proven wrong.

    There’s a whole generation now who know nothing but “Chavismo” and “socilismo”, and as I’ve long said, the Venezuelan people are generally tailor-made to embrace socialism and all the promises of something for nothing.

    Venezuela’s just one huge mess in my opinion. Color me negative that anything significant will come of last Sunday’s results..

  5. Free Leopoldo Lopez Today. Says:

    There is a reason no one likes Electronic voting in Europe. The entire Continent, with only a couple exceptions, is against it. I tend to trust the Europeans. There is a reason Chavez’s Smartmatic was banned in the USA, and deeply criticized by multiple Computer Specialists everywhere (Princeton, etc).

    There’s a reason Dilma won a very close election, and Capriles lost another one, in mysterious extra-innings, late evening. Not to mention the infamous “Foro”.

    This time, a combination of multiple factors muted the massive fraud potential of Chavez’s little Olivetti machines with secret source codes. But it’s an extensive subject, and this is a time to celebrate Chavismo’s ineptitude and parliamentary defeat.

  6. Political environment I n TSJ is already changing, the “talanquera” effect es a natural behaviour. The Maduro or government position es week in extreme, they lost Argentina, Brasil, and OEA the main players for Chavez, On the contrary, Itamaraty in Brasil has changed ignoring DIlma and PS they are doing what the know better, run diplomacy, particularly now when Dilma runs quickly to an impeachment. On the other hand, over Maduro’s government, hang some non solved issues of narco, terrorism, wash & wash, human right violations, generalized corruption, with ministers, militaries, law makers & political liders on the run. I think. we can freely say that “las mil plagas de Egipto cayeron sobre sobre estos comunistas, lo que nos dice que no hay manera de arrendarle la ganancia!!”

  7. Alejandro Says:

    I agree with all the points. But I would like to add how inappropriate is the presidential system. The political cycle is at complete odds with the economic cycle, and even though we might be optimistic about the recent elections uncertainty is as high as ever. Thus Venezuelan political system lacks resilience, and leaves the door open for undesired events.

    The opposition has become more relevant and the coalition is as ever in waiting to form government. But that doesn’t remain the case. There’s an economic crisis and a severe political one. A perfect example of this is the fact that the Vice-President is unelected, therefore it doesn’t have political legitimacy to be the replacement.

    There are too many issues regarding the state of affairs of Venezuela, and after going through all you end concluding that there is a need of reform in search of robustness and a real democracy.

    The opposition must remain such, and continue eroding the political capital that the regime has. It mustn’t try to claim be the answer to all that is wrong with the Venezuela, because it isn’t government.

    The Chavistas are 100% responsible for all that is going and they must pay the consequences.

  8. Kepler Says:


    I wrote about the evolution of votes in my blog..I was a bit surprised – shouldn’t have been- when I took a closer look at the numbers…the increase in votes seemed impressive but in reality, if you consider the distance between the different elections that matter – presidential, National Assembly – and the previous evolution, these numbers were very much to be expected.

    I reckon it will become now harder to improve our numbers much more in a lot of areas as there are those who no matter what never learn.

    In two years time, we might still have about 25% Chavistas…they will only disappear when the regime ends and then they, together with a part of the adecos and others, might gravitate to another populist group.

  9. IslandCanuck Says:

    Miguel, It wasn’t the protection of the votes that won the election – it was fraud by the MUD.

    Mario Silva: Estamos investigando todo, desde lo electrónico hasta los votos nulos

    Your morning smile. 🙂

  10. The recall should wait. The key actions remain separation of powers and end of censorship. The Unity faction has a very tough task ahead: need to get control of ANTV and force VTV to have fair coverage. Once the people can get access to quality information it’s likely Chavez will lose a lot of his glamour. I always hammer on people that Chavez was lucky because oil prices zoomed during his presidency. This has to be pointed out over and over.

    The methods the unity faction can use to achieve parity in the Supreme Court are largely unknown to me. But they do need to tackle that problem.

    And they need to focus on the needs of poor people, and get in their heads. For the most part, the Venezuelan upper and middle class is disconnected from the barrios, and suffers from a colossal degree of political immaturity. This is symbolized by Ramos Allup and his stupid comments. The only guy I see who comes close to understanding the real focus is Capriles. Maria Corina is admirable for her guts, but she’s way too cifrina and imbued in her own bullshit to understand how to behave properly.

    Given what I see, the utter ruthlessness and amoral behavior of the Maduro faction, and the disjointed, undisciplined, and weak Unity faction’s condition at this time, the outcome is seriously in doubt.

    And don’t forget, the Europeans are utterly cynical, they abandoned Cubans to slavery for a few bucks, and Obama is focused on his legacy, which involves global warming, making space for Syrian refugees in US cities, making sure Castro feels comfortable, and playing basketball.

  11. CarlosElio Says:

    Good, as usual, Miguel. The noticeable omission is the illegal call by CNE’s Oblitas to extend the voting period up to 7 pm. When the ex-presidents accompanying the MUD began stressing the importance of closing by 6 pm, the order to cancel their credentials came fast. The extension was planned all along. The CNE chavista works as a obedient group serving the interest of PSUV. That was another lesson that came clear from the 6D election.

    • moctavio Says:

      The great thing was, the more people voted after 6 PM; the larger the number of votes for the opposition. And then, in their sublime incompetence, they forgot to give the order to close….

  12. captainccs Says:

    I think going for a Maduro recall is a big mistake. I strongly favor tying him up (lame duck) with the supermajority power. As I posted on Twitter, the opposition didn’t win, the voto castigo won. As a friend wrote to me:

    “Yo tambien estoy muy contenta con las elecciones. Solo espero que sepan administrar el triunfo y sepan administrar la derrota.

    El pueblo castigo la escasez, la delincuencia, las vejaciones… no voto por la oposicion. Ojala la oposicion sepa colocar las prioridades en su lugar y atienda las necesidades del pueblo primero. Si es que Maduro los deja.”

    It’s time to rebuild our country, not to run witch hunts. That recall clause should be removed from the constitution. It’s a destabilizing double edged sword.

    • m_astera Says:

      So you think there should be no recourse if a completely incompetent and corrupt president is elected, just let them serve out the seven years?

      • moctavio Says:

        I just think is not the best strategy. You lose a single Deputy and cant get there and even if you win, you may lose the recall vote.

        There are other ways, I will talk about them. They have the same effect.

      • captainccs Says:

        There are laws to indict and remove criminal lawmakers. Incompetence is not illegal and it is not a cause for removal. Learn to vote right! Corruption is criminal and there are laws to remove and jail criminals (Nixon, Perez, Rousseff). The recall clause just weakens an already weak (meddling through) system of government.

      • captainccs Says:

        I would cut the tenure to four or five years. The Chavista Constitution was devised as a means to keep Chavez in power. I would revert to the prior constitution which has only one bad clause.

      • m_astera Says:

        MO, I’m not arguing for recall of Maduro. I agree with you and others that he should be allowed to flap in the wind and tie himself in knots against a majority in the NA. Besides, who would replace him at this point?

        I just like the recall option in the constitution. Much simpler and less messy than proving corruption or incompetence.

  13. Noel Says:

    Great analysis! It does seem that the armed forces were the deciding factor in letting the results stand. I agree that the key issue is whether they will keep the same line, and who are “they”: a few at the top, most at the top, many through the ranks?

  14. philgunson Says:

    Miguel, surely a recall referendum is possible from February next year, rather than April? Remember that Maduro is serving the term Chávez was originally elected for, and Chávez should have been sworn in in February 2013. Of course, the TSJ will have the final word.

    • moctavio Says:

      According to the Constitution it can be called immediately. I clarified it to include the or. Will the TSJ change this? I have no idea.

      • philgunson Says:

        I’m still a bit puzzled. Art. 72 says quite clearly, “transcurrida la mitad del período para el cual fue elegido el funcionario …”. And the period in question began in February, 2013. So half of it will have “transcurrido” in February 2016, What am I missing?

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