December 8, 2007

Rumors of CNE's competence have been greatly exaggerated

Quico says: I hate to write this, but for transparency's sake, I'm forced to. It took the eagle eyed maths monsters who read this blog all of twenty minutes to realize something is seriously weird about CNE's second bulletin.

As amieres put it...
Lucena said that the second bulletin is for 94% of the actas (first bulletin was 86%). But she didn't announce enough new votes.

First bulleting ---> 8,857,797 valid votes
Second bulleting-> 8,899,721 valid votes

I would expect at least 500,000 more valid votes. But she announced only 42,000 more votes than the first bulletin.
According to amieres, they're saying they added 7% of actas, over 2300, but they account for just 42,000 votes...
That means an average of 18 votes per acta. Those same missing actas in 2006 had an average of 232 valid votes, after adjusting for the larger abstention. Furthermore, when I considered only the 2300 actas with the smallest turnout, the average was still 163 valid votes per acta.
Not for the first time, I'm left wondering what bizarre game CNE is playing.

Why can't anything ever be straightforward with these people?

Sigh...acta por acta is the only solution. UNT...speak!

December 7, 2007

CNE 2nd Bulletin: Now it's really, really official

Quico says: With 94% of tallies reporting:

Block A (Proposed by Chávez)
No = 50.65% (4,521,494 votes)
Sí = 49.34% (4,404,626 votes)

Block B (Proposed by the National Assembly)
No=51.01% (4,539,707 votes)
Sí=48,99% (4,360,014 votes)


CNE head Tibisay Lucena called this a "Final Result" and proclaimed the reform officially not approved. But 2,000 tallies accounting for some 200,000 votes (from remote voting centers, and from consulates) still haven't been counted. Location by location results should be published by Monday.

Now, time to fess up: I have a potty-brain for thinking the final results would be substantially worse for the Sí than the first bulletin suggested. I apologize to CNE, and congratulate them on a job well done.

Belarusian Tinned Stew, anyone?

Quico says: Hugo Chávez never met a dictator he didn't love, so he'll have been delighted to welcome Europe's last to Caracas last night. Maybe Chávez wants some tips on how to win his next referendum to abolish presidential term limits: when Lukashenko had his back in 2004, he stuffed ballots to the tune of 79.4% in favor of Sí (or, I guess, Так).

Lukashenko's priorities for the trip are, one suspects, rather different. Speaking to journalists in Minsk last week, he said there are "good" opportunities for delivering Belarusian goods to Venezuela.

"There is money in Venezuela. We should offer goods," Lukashenko said, adding that it was noted in his personal contacts with Chávez that Venezuela is ready to buy "almost anything Belarus offers for sale." (!!)

That list includes, apparently, Belarusian Tinned Stew. De-lish!

This trip is, quite literally, un guiso.

Once again

Quico says: The best English language account of what's been happening in Venezuela is in The Economist.

December 6, 2007

Der Untergang

Katy says: Try as I might, it's impossible to look away. President Chávez's reaction to his dramatic loss in Sunday's referendum keeps getting weirder and weirder.

I've been itching to move beyond Chávez and start talking more about the future, the opposition and its options. But he continues to monopolize all attention due, in large part, to his bizarre behavior. It's like watching someone have a very public nervous breakdown.

And while I fancy myself more of an amateur political analyst than shrink, his behavior reminds me so much of that great German movie, Der Untergang (The Downfall), about Hitler's last days. It's all recrimination, all crazy talk, all the time.

The weird thing is that, last Sunday, Chávez did not meet his Waterloo, merely his Stalingrad. Any rational politician would take stock and begin planning his comeback. I guess it's a sign of Chávez's enormous need for power that he feels any temporary setback is a definitive end.

Chávez, coge mínimo y no te arrechéis con el pueblo...

(Notice: despite all appearances, the following is not a parody, but my translation of a real press note.)

Chavez slams allies, saying it's their fault he will have to leave power in 2013

In a political rally held at Caracas' Poliedrito, President Hugo Chávez reiterated that he will remain in power until 2013, because some of the people present did not go to vote last Sunday. "As I stated December 2nd, I have been thinking the past few days and I have to leave the government in 2012. You did not approve the reform, so therefore I have to go."

"Shout all you want, the truth is the truth, the Sí lost in Miranda, lost in Caracas, and write this down, the Sí lost in Petare, in the barrios, people didn't vote, a good chunk of the people didn't vote, millions didn't vote, you can say whatever you want but you have no excuse, you have no consciousness, you have no resolve for the fatherland, you have no excuse, revolutionaries don't look for excuses."

He criticized that now people might be saying "that the reason is that I don't like such and such mayor or governor, those are the excuses of the weak, the cowards and the lazy ones, of those who have no conscience, no love for the fatherland, no revolutionary consciousness."

"Here, the Sí lost, you let the Sí lose, Miranda owes me one, people of Miranda and Caracas you owe me a debt, I have it written down in my planner, let's see if you pay your debt to me or if you don't."

"If the people get scared, are confused, forget it then, if the people allow themselves to be blackmailed, if the people let themselves be scammed, if we, the revolutionary leaders, lose sight of our goal and are not able to tame this colt that is the revolution, then all will be lost, write it down, I will be reminding you of this every day. I don't matter at all, what matters is the Venezuelan fatherland, the future of our children, the fatherland of our grandchildren."

"I have been warning you, we are confronting the United States empire, and if we get careless and don't do our job and let ourselves be confused, well, December 2nd is a sign of what will happen."

He affirmed that "our enemy, the empire, does not forgive" and he mentioned that if an option different from his were to win, there would be no community banks, "and what would await the people would be misery for a hundred years more, persecution, violence, racism and abuse."

Curiouser and curiouser...

Quico says: The struggle to get to the real results from Sunday's constitutional reform referendum took a turn for the weird last night, after reader amieres struck again. This time he managed to harvest the 2006 presidential election data from the CNE's "divulgación" website. He warns, however, that not every table at last year's election corresponds to a table in Sunday's referendum.

In total, we now have 3 databases: the 2006 results, the 2007 first bulletin results, and a handy combination of the two. You can go ahead and download them (all three are zipped excel files):
amieres set out to analyze this data immediately. His preliminary result? sure you're sitting down for this.

The 13.6% of voting tables that were not included in Sunday's CNE Results Announcement (primer boletín) are from places that, in 2006, voted more heavily for Chávez than the national trend.

CNE's final result will probably show a smaller margin of victory for the No side than the 1.4% announced on Sunday night.

On the basis of the 2006 results for the missing tables, amieres projects the final outcome will be achingly close.

A second reader, Edgar Brown, came to a similar conclusion using a different method. He notes that in the tables not included in Sunday night's primer boletín, Chávez won the 2006 presidential election by 67.8% to 32.2%. But in the tables that were included in CNE's primer boletín on Sunday night, Chávez won last year by 62.5% to 37.5%. He also concludes that this suggests a narrower victory for the No side than the primer boletín showed.

We beseech all statistically literate readers to have a crack at falsifying this work.

To reiterate, only an acta por acta count can settle these matters definitively. Apparently UNT is working feverishly on that gold standard tallysheet by tallysheet verification as we speak. Lets hope they publish their results soon.

All we can do with the information we have is speculate on an informed basis. At this point, the stories going around about a much more comfortable win for the No side than was reported on election night are difficult to reconcile with the data.

December 5, 2007

The shit hits the F.A.N.

Quico says: It's now an established talking point in the government's response to Sunday's referendum defeat: by "graciously" accepting he'd lost, Chávez put the lie to the opposition claim that he's some kind of crazy dictator. Like the democrat that he is, he "accepted the will of the people" and moved on...

Or did he?

This afternoon, Chávez turned up unannounced at the Military High Command's press conference and totally freaked out. Less than 72 hours after his "graceful" election night concession speech, the all too predictable Narcissistic Rage response began. He called the opposition's referendum win "a triumph made of shit," using the word "mierda" four times in two sentences on national TV. I mean, you know things have come to a head when Reuter's has to put the journalistic equivalent of a parental advisory at the start of its write up.

And I know everybody says Chávez doesn't drink but...well, you be the judge:

Ahhhh...profound reflection, thine homes are many.

Before this point, he'd hinted that the No side hadn't really won the referendum, but said he'd been graceful enough not to demand the complete tally count that might have nudged his side to victory. He skewered the journalist who reported he had "been pressured" by the Defense Minister to accept defeat, Hernán Lugo Galicia, calling his reporting (wait for it) shit. And then, the cherry on top: he vowed to come right back and propose pretty much the same constitutional reform to the voters all over again.

Even more than the expletives, that last part is the real insult to the Venezuelan people. The electorally suicidal decision to put the same, loser reform in front of the voters again speaks volumes about how shallow Chávez's commitment to democracy really is. Because "accepting the results" doesn't mean simply accepting the brute numerical fact that the other side has more votes than your side. It means accepting the political consequences that follow from the result.

On Sunday, the will of what Chávez used to call the Sovereign People was clear: keep your reforms out of our constitution. In any event, the constitutions article 345 explictly bars him from from putting the same proposal for constitutional reform to the people for a second time in the same term of office. A politician with a sounder grasp of reality might take the message, but the layers of abject sycophancy now insulating the president from the world around him have grown so thick, he's no longer able to make even minimally sensible decisions.

Chávez is treating his referendum defeat the way I might treat failing a driver's license test: it's embarrassing, sure, but no biggie. I just try again a few months later. Even if I failed the first test "fair and square", there's no question of giving up. After all, I need a driver's license.

The only difference is that, as far as Chávez can see, he wasn't the one who failed the exams, it was the voters who goofed. His message to them? "Wrong answer! Go back and vote better next time!" That's not respecting the will of the people, that's deepest, darkest contempt for the will of the people.

Seriously, the guy is loony tunes...

The database underlying CNE's First Bulletin, anyone?

Quico says: As soon as CNE published this website breaking down the Referendum Results by location, my more computer savvy readers realized it would be possible to harvest the data that went into it.

That allows you to reconstruct the database underlying CNE's election night results announcement. With that information in hand, flushing out any hanky panky with the numbers becomes easy, regardless of whether CNE gives out any more information or not.

Longtime reader amieres got there first, for which we all owe him a big thank you:
Click here to download the data underlying CNE's First Bulletin. [excel spreadsheet, 1.3 MB, zipped.]
The data show the first bulletin was based on a count of 86.42% of the machine tallies (29,072 out of 33,639), though it's nuts what we had to go through to get a precise number on that. The data is still incomplete (there is no field for null votes or for abstention, for instance) because, obviously, you can't harvest data CNE hasn't published. But at least now it's in easy-to-read, easy-to-compare and, crucially, easy-to-fill-in-the-blanks form.

The student movement made a big thing about having "all the tallysheets in hand." If they have them, it's straightforward (if time consuming) to fill in the gaps in this spreadsheet with the data from the 4567 actas that CNE did not include in its first bulletin.

That means we can have complete, official, table-by-table, audited results whether or not CNE deigns to announce them.
Enough speculation. Enough rumors. Enough quick counts and projections and guesstimates. Enough bullshit:
Acta por acta.
The rest is noise.

December 4, 2007

A Fat Man in a Palace

Lucia says: With all respect to the brave and energetic students, the moderate political opposition, and the tea-leaves-reading Baduel, the story of this referendum is Chávez.

The conventional wisdom is that Chávez is an immensely talented politician, with a common touch, loads of charisma, and a crafty talent for turning his anti-American agenda into votes.

It’s true he’s got the gift of blarney, massive self-confidence, and – sometimes -- a real way with words. But the real story behind Chávez’s success has always been the increase in oil revenues and the misiones they funded. Many, many Venezuelans – the entire crucial center, in fact – have supported Chávez despite his antics, despite his ideology and despite his narcissism.

That Chávez himself has never really understood this was crystal clear during the final days of the campaign. He could have spent those final days talking about the proposal to give the misiones constitutional status, he could have focused on buhonero pensions and shorter work hours, and on funding community councils. And most of all, he could have dialed down the crazy.

Instead, he let the crazy fly.

He looked befuddled in his concession speech because he didn’t, couldn’t, understand what had happened.

Katy nailed it: he’s become just a Fat Man in a Palace -- surrounded by Yes Men, disconnected from a shifting political dynamic. Not just drinking but inhaling his own Kool-Aid.

In the end, it's no surprise that man who imagines himself on par with Christ and Bolivar may have an especially hard time integrating reality.

What comes next? No one is predicting that the Chávez team will undertake a sober assessment of the unexpected defeat. Mostly, his people are too busy cringing in palace corners, hoping their heads get to stay on their shoulders a bit longer. Surely, Chávez won’t wait for the Venezuelan people to achieve the requisite maturity -- a barrage of far-reaching legislation is headed our way, as if the rebuke-by-vote never took place.

Heinz Dieterich blows a gasket

Quico says: For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, Heinz Dietrich is Chávez's favorite theorist. Or, maybe I should write "used to be", because I have a feeling when Chávez reads his referendum postmortem, well...

The piece is remarkable from start to finish. Parts of it look like he's lifted them straight off this blog, while others read like the guy keeps a stash of qualudes by his computer. His main point is that the referendum went badly due to bolivarianismo's "vertical system of leadership", which is a little bit like saying that the only problem with this table here is that it has four legs, and a top.

But definitely the best part is when he blames the defeat on...PSFs!
The political price the president has paid for [the vertical system of leadership] was the absence of information about reality, and the filling out of his cabinet and his Miraflores staff with opportunists from the New Political Class who are often not up to their jobs and guarantee his bureaucratic control of the process, but not closeness to the people. A further ring that filters his reality is inside Miraflores where, for instance, the inspectors he is able to send to investigate any problem, have to go through a bottleneck at the Ministry of the Presidency. Something similar happened with the analyses of the "situation room" at the palace where, moreover, control was handed off to a gaggle of young foreign "advisers" (French, Spanish) without political experience, but with very juicy salaries.

That situation with his courtesans was reproduced internationally, generating for him a circuit of individual intellectual sycophants fed with absurd cultural prizes worth $150,000 or $100,000 dollars, and collective ones, such as some leftwing web pages that suppress or marginalize all critical debate about the development of the progressive processes in Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia.
Alas, Dieterich is too much of a "gentlemen" to name names here, but still, I'm dying to know...which intellectuals...which web pages?

Read his entire postmortem here.

It's not that we're questioning the result - it's that we want to know what the result is!

Quico says: First the good news: Sunday night's referendum proved that, when the chips are down, the Smartmatic voting system (electronic voting with an audited paper trail) makes it essentially impossible to fake the final outcome. You might think that, after years of deep suspicion from opposition folk certain that "a chavista elections council will never, ever announce Chávez lost", the No side's win would at last have put concerns about CNE's credibility to rest.

Really, this should be CNE's star turn... but it isn't, because the way they're handling the final results announcement is an ongoing fiasco.

First, lets just remind ourselves why our voting system makes it nearly impossible to cheat credibly:

One of the system's big selling points was supposed to be speed: doing the official tally electronically allows you to generate results pretty much immediately, as they come in.

On Sunday afternoon, CNE said it would announce results around 7:00 p.m. And they did indeed have enough tallies for a first announcement ready early that evening. But, it was past midnight before CNE head Tibisay Lucena came on the air to announce results, a delay that needlessly scared the hell out of everybody.

What on earth was that about?

Chávez gave us a good hint during his concession speech, saying he'd been faced with a dilemma that night and had been "considering his options." What options? Chávez isn't supposed to have any options at a time like that. CNE is meant to be an independent branch of government. Results come in; results are announced. If they show triple congruence, they're credible. If they don't, they aren't.

Rumors are rife that the first announcement was delayed because Chávez insisted on "negotiating the margin": he didn't want the world to think he'd lost by a lot. (Other conspiracy theories are way more alarming.) To massage the results in this way, he would've had to pressure CNE to manipulate which Tally Sheets were included in the first bulletin, (the election night announcement), gaming the sample to make the outcome look closer than it really was.

For now, those are just rumors. But we can't dismiss them because, bizarrely, CNE did not tell us what percentage of the voting centers their first bulletin covered. That, when you think about it, is totally crazy and weird. Isn't that the first thing usually announced in a situation like this, in Venezuela or anywhere else in the world? (You know what I'm talking about, right? "With X% of precincts reporting, results show...")

This morning, the plot thickened as CNE posted the geographic breakdown of results on its website. These are exquisitely detailed, but are they complete? Nope. As a cryptic footnote tells us, they "correspond to the percentage of Tally Sheets received at the time of the first election night bulletin." And what, pray tell, would that percentage be? That they don't say!

It's higher order opacity, this: it's not just that they're withholding information, it's that they're withholding information about how much information they're withholding.

The situation we have on our hands now is really quite bizarre. On the one hand, CNE is willing to tell us that at voting table number one at the Escuela Estadal Unitaria de Sabana Dulce voting center in Caño Delgadito parish of Papelón Municipality, in Portuguesa State, the Sí side cleaned our clocks by 155 votes to 16. On the other hand, they're not willing to tell us what percentage of the tally sheets they've added up! The disconnect between their willingness to disclose arcane detail and their reticence to disclose the heart of the matter is...interesting.

They also don't report the number of null votes. Or turnout details. Or the number of actas tallied per voting center. In fact, all of the data that were included in the "Ficha Técnica" in their 2006 presidential election results, are mysteriously missing this time.

In the end, CNE wasted a golden opportunity to shut up all their critics once and for all. At 7 p.m. on Sunday Night, Tibisay Lucena could perfectly well have gone on TV to say, "having counted X% of the tally sheets, here are the results..." Then we could've checked that announcement for triple congruence, and that would've been the end of that. The long, divisive, barren debate on CNE would've been over.

That's not how they chose to play it, though, and now, idiotically, they have to think up a way to climb out of the hole they've dugged themselves into. If the final tally shows a substantially larger margin of victory for the No vote than the one announced on Sunday night, Tibisay Lucena has to resign.

December 3, 2007

Did Chavez turn a defeat into a victory?

Quico and Katy say: A few days ago we posted our No victory scenario. We thought Chavez would work to turn defeat into some sort of publicity victory, something he could build on for the future by portraying himself as a victim or by bringing back the "conciliatory Chavez" that's been missing these past few years.

Last night, our first reaction was that he'd nailed his concession speech. His sounded like a real democrat, soft-spoken if a bit winded. And while it's generally considered rude to give a concession speech that lasts more than a few minutes, this is Chavez we're talking about, so we just thank our lucky stars he didn't drone on for four hours.

But thinking back on it this morning, we realized how mad that speech made us. Is it just that the guy gets under our skin, or is there more to it than that?

And then it suddenly hit us: his tone conciliatory, but his message wasn't. He wasn't raving at the top of his lungs like he usually does, but what he had to say was no less aggressive for it.

The essence of Chavez's concession speech was: sod the lot of you, I'm gonna do it anyway. If what he used to call "the sovereign people" don't like his constitutional reforms, that's neither here nor there to him: sooner or later, one way or another, he'll get there.

He offered his supporters no explanations for why he failed at such a critical juncture. He shed no light about why he lost what was, in his own words, was "the most important election in our history", one meant to mark the revolution's future. He had no particular insights on what it says about his ideological agenda that a popular petrocrat could lose a referendum against a bunch of adolescents at a time when oil fetches more than $90 a barrel. He had no answers, only tunnel vision. If there was a message from the voters in there somewhere, he just plain missed it.

In this context, "reflecting" probably means finding somebody to blame. There was no indication yesterday that Chávez had the slightest clue as to where to begin reflecting on what had happened, or any intention to respect the underlying decision the voters have made.

The curious thing is that, by rejecting Chavez's proposals, the voters have now approved the 1999 constitution twice. In 1999 a chavista led majority voted to approve it; last night an opposition led majority voted to keep it intact.

The 99 Constitution seems to be the only thing most Venezuelans can rally around now.

Legally, Chavez never had the right to subvert it. Now, he doesn't have a political mandate to do so, either. But does he care? How long could it be until the next time he hits up the Central Bank for another "millardito" in "excess foreign reserves"? How many times will we have to reaffirm the Constitution before he realizes we're serious?

We also think Chávez made a critical mistake in not addressing the legions of followers standing outside the very palace where he was giving his speech. The photos you can find in both the New York Times and the BBC website speak volumes about the heartbreak of his devoted followers on hearing their beloved leader had lost an election for the first time.

Used to seeing him celebrate on the "Balcony of the People", the "people" were left wondering why they weren't invited to his speech this time around. When they needed solace, he left them hanging...not for the first time.

More and more, Chavez is looking like a fat man in a palace, unaware of and unconcerned with normal folk's problems, let alone their views. Try as he might to cover it up, his larger than life persona is well and truly punctured.

Stand tall & be proud!

Katy says: I didn't like Quico's idea for an opposition message. I had a particular problem with this interpretation:
"The point is to remind chavistas inside the institutions who signed up to the original project and didn't like the reform proposal (think Supreme Tribunal Chief Judge Luisa Estela Morales) that it wasn't 'the opposition' that won last night, it was their constitution."
I think the oppposition did win last night, and there's no shame in that. The days when being labelled "opposition" was the kiss of death are no more. We have proven that we've moved beyond the coup, the paro petrolero and the political gridlock that followed the Recall Referendum. We have proven we can win elections, that we can be organized and stay on message.

What we saw yesterday was a new opposition, one that believes in the vote and does not think of shortcuts. One that is bold in defending the vote while humble enough to recognize that chavismo is still - and will be for many years to come - a force to be reckoned with.

That new opposition has nothing to be ashamed of. What they should emphasize is that the country is trying to teach the President a lesson, and that it's up to the President - for the sake of reconciliation, progress and brotherhood - to listen.

Pandering to chaventionists (chavista abstentionists) and chavepentidos (chavista arrepentidos, like Luisa Estela Morales, who apparently voted No) by saying "the opposition didn't win, it was your Constitution who won" makes you sound weak. And why would you sound weak when you've had your greatest victory ever?

Administering victory means translating it into something bigger, something that can encompass both the people you already have and the people you almost have. Those millions of chaventionists that stayed home yesterday seem to have turned a corner with respect to the President. They're pissed at him, they feel disappointed, but not enough for them to feel like they could go and vote against them.

They're there for the pickin'. It's time to woo them with our charm, our offers, our plans for the country. And anybody who has ever played the singles game will tell you - you can't woo someone by being weak.

The opposition should stand tall and be proud, but continue talking to chaventionists and chavepentidos about what we have in common, about the country we all dream of. Which is more or less what they've been doing so far.

Baduel aside, I think the messages so far have been pretty darn close to perfect.

If I could set the oppo's political line...

Quico says:'s what you would be hearing again and again from our side in the next few weeks:
In 1999, the Bolivarian movement led by President Hugo Chávez Frías [like that, using both his last names, to denote respect] proposed a new constitution to the nation, and the the sovereign people adopted it as the fundamental law of the land. Last night, Venezuelans reaffirmed their commitment to that constitution.

In 1999, the Bolivarian movement led by President Hugo Chávez Frías proposed that the government should always be democratic, participatory, elected, decentralized, alternating, responsible, pluralist and open to recall. The sovereign people accepted that proposal and enshrined it in its constitution. Last night, Venezuelans reaffirmed their commitment to the principle that the government must always be democratic, participatory, elected, decentralized, alternating, responsible, pluralist and open to recall.

In 1999, the Bolivarian movement led by President Hugo Chávez Frías proposed to the nation that presidents should serve six year terms and be eligible for re election only once. The nation accepted that proposal and enshrined it into its constitution. Last night, Venezuelans reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of no indefinite re election.

In 1999, the Bolivarian movement led by President Hugo Chávez Frías proposed to the nation that some rights, like the right to information and the right to due process, should be seen as so fundamental that they cannot be abridged, even in the midst of an emergency. The sovereign people accepted that proposal and enshrined it into its constitution. Last night, Venezuelans reaffirmed their commitment to the right to information and the right to due process, at all times and under all circumstances.

In 1999, the Bolivarian movement led by President Hugo Chávez Frías proposed to the nation that the Armed Forces be essentially professional, without political militancy, and at the service of the nation rather than any political partiality. The nation accepted that proposal and enshrined it into its constitution. Last night, Venezuelans reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of politically impartial Armed Forces.

In 1999, the Bolivarian movement led by President Hugo Chávez Frías proposed to the nation that the Central Bank should be autonomous, and the sovereign people accepted that proposal and enshrined it into its constitution. Last night, Venezuelans reaffirmed their commitment to the autonomy of their Central Bank.

In 1999, the Bolivarian movement led by President Hugo Chávez Frías proposed to the people of Venezuela that they should reserve the right to call a Constituent Assembly by collecting the signatures of 15% of registered voters. The nation accepted that proposal and enshrined it into its constitution. Last night, Venezuelans reaffirmed their commitment to the idea that 15% of electors should be able to call a Constituent Assembly.

In 1999, the Bolivarian movement led by President Hugo Chávez Frías proposed a decentralized system of government that gave real power to governors and mayors directly elected by the sovereign people, and the nation accepted that proposal and enshrined it into its constitution. Last night, Venezuelans reaffirmed their commitment to a decentralized system of government that gives real power over local and regional matters to the mayors and governors they themselves elect.

The Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela has now been ratified by the sovereign will of the people not once, but twice. Obeying its norms is not optional. No Venezuelan has the right to violate any of its provisions. Every Venezuelan has the obligation, please note, the obligation to defend it.
The point is to stress the referendum's role in paving the road back to constitutional legality.

The point is to remind chavistas inside the institutions who signed up to the original project and didn't like the reform proposal (think Supreme Tribunal Chief Judge Luisa Estela Morales) that it wasn't "the opposition" that won last night, it was their constitution.

We must not allow a situation where the same abuses of power that were rejected by the majority last night are reintroduced through the back door, as part of Chavez's special powers to legislate by decree, or in any other way.

Acta por acta...

Quico says: The implications of Chávez's defeat last night will take a long time to work out but, for me, the first questions is...50.7% to 49.3%, really?

It's totally surreal that, having won, we should be worried about fraud. But this is Venezuela, the land of the possible, and the desperately close final results announced by CNE are not consistent with pre referendum polling trends.

The unexplained delay in announcing results we saw last night, alongside the rumors that the final margin had been "negotiated" behind the scenes, leaves real room for doubt. Could it be that the No's victory margin was more comfortable and Chávez insisted on a face saving CNE announcement as a condition before he would concede?

Fortunately, if this is so, we will know. Quite soon. The student movement (the real winners last night) made a huge effort to make sure no one left their polling stations without their Hot Audit tally sheets in hand. This made it impossible to steal the final outcome, and the nation owes them a huge debt of gratitude.

Having won is no grounds for complacency, though. At the risk of seeming ungracious, they have to complete the task they started. They need to scrutinize last night's results, check them against the hot audit tallies acta por acta, and tell us clearly if they were massaged. Because the viability of the long, tortuous path back to democracy we stepped onto last night hinges on it.

Hell No!'s OFFICIAL!

Quico says: Venezuela rejects authoriarianism. It's a historic day. The myth of Chávez-the-invincible is no more.

NO 51%

Thanks to everyone for your support. The road back to something like a real democracy will be long, but at least we're on it now!

December 2, 2007


Quico says: Multiple sources inside CNE now confirm it. Chávez's constitutional reform proposal has been defeated at the polls. An official announcement is imminent.

Voting closes: Is the turnout high enough?

Quico says: It's 4:00 p.m. in Caracas. Voting has now closed in voting centers where people are not waiting to vote. The actual voting process was much faster today than it had been in past votes, largely because the CNE authorities took the fingerprint scanning machines offline. The result? Shorter lines, and the perception that turnout was low.

But was turnout really low, or did it just seem that way to us because we're used to gauging turnout by the length of the lines outside voting centers?

This is the key question now. Just to review: public opinion research suggests the "No" side should win only if turnout climbs above 60% (9.5 million votes).

The first official results bulletin should follow within 3 hours, by 7:00 p.m. Caracas time. This is the nerviest hour. The student movement and the No camp believe turnout is now above 60%. If so, the No side should win. But it's tight. It's very tight.

Whaddayamean "neck-and-neck"?!?

Quico says: For the record, that C21 poll released last night leaves the final chart of the most recent, most relevant polls looking like this:

The final Big Poll Chart (which includes every survey I could get my hands on) has gotten a bit unwieldy, just because it has so much data in it by now. If you click on it, though, you can download it, and then it's much easier to read:

Lets review the bidding here:
  • The "No" has had an underlying lead among all poll respondents all along.
  • It's now been three months since a survey not paid for by the government gave the Sí option a clear lead among likely voters.
  • Out of the nine nationwide surveys carried out in November,
    • Six give the No a clear lead
    • Two say it's "too close to call"
    • One gives the Sí a clear lead.
  • The one November poll that gives Sí a clear lead is by a fly-by-night firm that may or may not be a Chávez sockpuppet.
Yet the standard line in the international press is still that "most polls show a neck-and-neck race."

I'm sorry, but I call bullshit. That's just factually wrong.