November 29, 2008

The Leader of the Opposition

Quico says: You thought Chávez was a handful running the government?

Just wait till you see him running the opposition.

November 28, 2008

The Urban-Rural Split in Numbers

Quico says: So I wanted to take a more systematic look at the Urban-Rural split in Sunday's elections. Here's what I did:

Using data from the 2000 Census (out of date, but the best we have) - I made a simple ranking of municipios according to the percentage of its inhabitants living in apartments. I think that's a reasonable proxy for the "urbanness" of a place - certainly, it's the best we can do with Census data.

With that list, it was easy to figure out that half of the Venezuelan population lives in 52 municipios where more than 6% of residents live in apartments, and the other half live in the remaining 286 municipios, where less than 6% of the residents call an apartment home. Lets call those first 52 municipios the Urban Half, the remaining 286 the Rural Half.

(Caveat: this is an approximation. As everyone knows, Venezuela is about 85% urban, so the "rural" half still contains places like San Juan de los Morros that a geographer would probably call urban: for our purposes, all that matters is that places like that are "less urban than the place where the average Venezuelan lives.")

Next, I made this spreadsheet looking at the results of races for mayor in the Urban Half.

First things first: the opposition won just 16 of those 52 municipios, while PSUV won 36. Overall, PSUV-backed candidates took 46.5% of the vote in the Urban Half, the main opposition candidates took 44.6%. Chavista dissidents (PPT, PCV and MEP candidates in places where they weren't backing the PSUV guy) got 1.8% and microparties got 1.7% of the vote.

But - and here's the dousy - Opposition Disunity candidates took 5.4% of the vote in the Urban Half. Enough to doom us in more than a few municipios.

Nonetheles, in the Urban Half, anti-Chávez candidates won more votes than chavista candidates.

Lump the PPTistas and commies in with PSUV, and the oppo disunity guys with the mainline oppo, and the election in the Urban Half of the country came out like this:

This next part is more approximative.

It would've been way too time-consuming to calculate another spreadsheet for 286 bumf*#k nowhere rural counties, so I cheated. I subtracted each side's urban votes from its nationwide vote for governor, and called the difference its rural vote. For comparability's sake, I also chucked out the microparties.

That yielded this rough-and-ready estimate of the Urban-Rural split:

Chavismo's entire advantage is down to a better than 3-to-2 split in the Rural Half!

Or, coming at it from a different angle, 60% of opposition votes come from the Urban Half, while just 47% of chavismo's votes nationwide come from the 52 most urban municipios.

Which, I still think, pretty much tells the story of this election.

November 27, 2008

The Battle for City Hall

Quico says: A while ago, I identified 13 urban municipios the opposition should target in this year's election. I picked out big urban municipios that fulfilled two conditions:

- The mayor elected in 2004 was chavista
- The municipality voted No in the 2007 referendum

These are places where the opposition should've expected big gains. So how did it go?

Not well. We took only four of the 13, lost eight, and one (Maracay) is still in limbo.

The silver lining is that, buoyed by big wins in Maracaibo and Petare, we did get more votes than PSUV in these 13 municipios, edging them out 1.14 million votes to 1.05 million votes. On the other hand, our guys couldn't match the No's performance in last year's referendum anywhere.

Here's the breakdown.
  • Mérida City, Mérida:
AD's Lester Rodríguez won with 51.9% of the vote against the PSUV guy's 37%. The communists got 3.5% here. A win, but hardly overwhelming considering we'd gotten 66% for the No side a year ago.

  • Maracaibo, Zulia:
Manuel Rosales crushed the PSUV guy 60% to 39.6%. Even so, Rosales underperformed the No vote in Maracaibo by 2.4 points.

  • Petare, Miranda:
In the sweetest win of the night, Primero Justicia's Carlos Ocariz came in at 55.6% to Jesse Chacón's 43.9%. The No side had gotten 61.6%, though.

  • El Tigre, Anzoátegui:
PSUV's Carlos Hernández squeaked out a win over the Podemos guy, Ernesto Paraqueima, by 48.6% to 47.0%. Disunity cost us this race: PSUV's margin of victory was 1,082 votes, while Bandera Roja ran a no-hoper who got 1,087 votes!

  • Coro, Falcón:
PSUV's Oswaldo Leon had no trouble crushing a Copei lady 64% to 35%.

  • Puerto La Cruz, Anzoátegui:
PSUV had its own Stalin in Puerto La Cruz, last name Fuentes, who beat out the oppo guy 52.1% to 46.3%. Last year, the No side got 55.2% out there.

  • Barquisimeto, Lara:
Amalia Saez rode Henry Falcón's considerable coattails to a PSUV victory here by 55.4% to 41.2% over Causa R's Alfredo Ramos. Marisabel Rodríguz could manage just 2% of the vote in a city that voted 56.5% against letting her ex get re-elected forever.

  • Barcelona, Anzoátegui:
Chavismo ran two candidates but won anyway, with PSUV's Inés Sifontes getting 46.7% of the vote, ahead of the AD guy's 43.4%, while a MEP guy took 7.1% - all in a town that voted 53.7% against constitutional reform.

  • Maracay, Aragua:
Primero Justicia is asking for a re-count of paper ballots after their guy, Richard Mardo, came in just 100-some-odd votes behind the PSUV guy. Both were on 45.7%. A PPT guy took 4.6% out there. Last year, Maracay was 53.7% No.

  • Cumaná, Sucre:
Cumaná was AD's gift to Chávez Sunday night. PSUV's Rafael Acuña took it with 47.8% of the vote, with Podemos's Hernán Nuñez in second on 36.5%. AD's guy got 13.6% of the vote. Buena esa, compañeritos.

  • Los Teques, Miranda:
Another squeaker: PSUV's Alirio Mendoza got in on 50% of the vote, with Primero Justicia's Rómulo Herrera second on 48.7%. Los Teques voted 52.9% against constitutional reform.

  • Guacara, Carabobo:
PSUV's guy won comfortably: 52.3% to Proyecto Venezuela's guy's 43.5%. The No side won the referendum last year with 51.8% here.

  • Ciudad Bolívar, Bolívar:
A rare win for Causa R: Victor Fuenmayor won with 46.3% of the vote to PSUV's guy's 45.2% of the vote. PPT's María Manrique cost PSUV this one: she took 2.3% of the vote and swung Angostura to the opposition, in a place where the No side had 50.3% last year.

The long and the short of it is: we're competitive in most urban areas, but hardly dominant there. Our guys (and, sad to say, our candidates in these towns were all guys) underperformed the No in every one of these municipalities. And disunity's still costing us in places where it never should've been an issue.

The Truth About Petare

Quico says: Petare parish, (in Sucre Municipality of Miranda State) has more registered voters than any other parroquia in Venezuela: 310,430. The barrio it hosts is the biggest in Venezuela. By some accounts, it's the biggest shantytown in all of South America.

Petare is also a state-of-mind, a kind of by-word for all that afflicts urban Venezuela, a place of immense symbolic resonance.

The other day, Chávez blamed PSUV's loss in Sucre municipality on the rich, racist oligarchs that infest the district. While some other parroquias within Sucre municipality do have important middle class - though hardly rich - areas, Petare parish itself is pretty much one giant slum.

The truth is, on Sunday, Henrique Capriles beat Diosdado Cabello Petare by 102,361 votes to 79,436.

Note: (The charts that accompanied this post have gone bye-bye while I get a chance to correct them...)

November 26, 2008

The Cartogram

Quico says: Lets face it: the standard results map is depressing to look at. Just too much red. Of course, most of those red states have more cows than people. Make the size of each state proportional to its actual (human) population, and you get:

Where Distrito Capital is shown half-and-half since PSUV controls the municipality and the opposition the Alcaldía Mayor.

Isn't that better?

Here's the same thing shown on a chromatic scale linked to PSUV's vote share, ranging from rojo-rojito to a paler shade of oligarch:

[A massive hat-tip to Dónall Ó Murchadha, who put his superior GIS skills to good use making this for us!]

A massive data-trove from Sunday's election

Quico says: Longtime reader Abelardo Mieres has done it again! Over the last few days, Mieres has grabbed CNE's website by the lapels and shaken it virulently until it gave up this massive trove of election data, all in convenient Excel format.

What you get:
  1. Results for Governor by Candidate At the State Level
  2. Results for Governor by Candidate At the Municipal Level
  3. Results for Governor by Candidate At the Parish Level
  4. Results for Governor by Party At the State Level
  5. Results for Governor by Party At the Municipal Level
  6. Results for Governor by Party At the Parish Level
  7. Results for Mayor by Candidate at the Municipal Level
  8. Results for Mayor by Party at the Municipal Level
  9. Results for Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas by Candidate At the Municipal Level
  10. Results for Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas by Party At the Municipal Level
  11. A National Overview of results in Governors' Races + the Race for Municipio Libertador in Caracas
  12. All the associated "Fichas Técnicas" (Registered voters, total votes, valid votes, null votes, turnout, etc.)
Download the whole thing here.

One quick, interesting result from Abelardo's work: a staggering 223 parties nominated at least one person for governor somewhere, but just 10 parties got more than 1% of the nationwide popular vote:

Click to enlarge

The first thing that jumps out at you here is how fragmented party allegiances are in Venezuela. The top 10 parties account for 83.6% of the nationwide votes for governor, meaning that a still significant 16.4% of Venezuelans voted for microparties that got less than 1% of the vote nationally. A staggering 413,000 people voted for one of the 165 nanoparties that each got less than 0.1% of the nationwide vote!!

The second thing that jumps out at you is that AD is still the only opposition party with a genuinely national presence: all the other anti-Chávez parties got results in their home regions only.

And the final, belief beggaring thing, is that the Tupamaros - basically a leftwing paramilitary gang founded to carry out extrajudicial killings of neighborhood thugs in western Caracas - are now one of the main parties in Venezuela, larger than such historical parties as Causa R, MAS, MEP, etc! Crazy stuff...

Looked at in aggregate, the party breakdown looks like this:

November 25, 2008

Julio Cesar: Show me the actas!

Quico says: It wouldn't be a Venezuelan election if nobody was crying fraud. This time it's chavista dissident extraordinaire and scourge of the Chávez clan in Barinas Julio Cesar Reyes, who says that while 99% of actas (official tallies) were electronically transmitted from Barinas back to CNE headquarters in Caracas, only 90% were reported in the first official CNE bulletin. Reyes says that counting the missing 9% of actas would show him in the lead.

Thankfully, for all its many, many faults, CNE's electronic voting system does contain an auditing mechanism that would make any numerical fraud very, very evident. The system generates not one, not two, but three independent tallies: a center-by-center machine tally, a hand-counted audit tally and the central tally calculated by CNE in Caracas. Witnesses from each campaign are entitled to receive copies of the first two on a center-by-center basis; the third is made public online.

If the three sets of tallies match (triple congruence), there's really no credible way to claim fraud.

Just as a refresher, lets review how the auditing mechanism works.

(These slides are just reproduced from a post a few days after the 2D referendum...seems like I end up needing them after every election.)

Basically, it's very simple, Julio Cesar: if you can show, acta en mano, that there is no Triple Congruence between Audit Tallies, CNE Tallies, and Machine Tallies, you have a serious case to make. If you can't, you don't.

Your witnesses were entitled to copies of the Machine and Audit Tallies at each and every voting center in Barinas: if you had your act together, you have them in your possession right now.

So, no te nos vayas por la tangente. Don't tell me about the them to me. Just get on a scanner and get to it! Which specific voting machines are we talking about? From which specific voting centers? At which specific escuelitas rurales? We need specifics here, not arm waving.

If the 9% of actas not reflected in the First Bulletin really do put you in the lead, you'd better produce the goods.

A fraud allegation, acta en mano, would be absolutely devastating. Without it, it's worse than a waste of time: it's a credibility black hole. Loose talk of election fraud with no evidence to back it up has cost the anti-Chávez movement way too much in the past for us to continue to tolerate it.

Ya basta con la habladera de paja: show me the actas!!

Boy, that took work!

Quico says: It took some doing, but in the end a four-way opposition split handed Valencia's City Hall to chavismo's Edgardo Parra - and even then, by less than 2%!

Good going, guys...Operación Alegría indeed.

Guatepeor update: CNE has PSUV winning in Maracay by 151 votes...oy vey!

November 24, 2008

Carajo, No Escrutan!

Quico says: Friggin' CNE! I shouldn't be surprised by now, but after making such a big to-do about how the voting system is 100% electronic this time around, is there any reason why we're still waiting for results? And not just details...important posts like mayor of Maracay, Valencia and Parapara are still not up on their results website. Do electrons travel slower in Valencia than in Maracaibo?

Puzzle me this: if you click on Aragua State's Girardot Municipality (a.k.a., Maracay), you can get detailed results for the governor's race, but nothing at all for the mayor's race! What sense does that make? Same voting centers, same voters, same machines, same transmission...THEY OBVIOUSLY HAVE THE DATA! Why won't they give it up?!

Last year, on 2D, the delays were merely annoying - with the added bonus of feeding the conspiratorial fantasies of those so-inclined (I plead guilty, your honor). This year, though, real people all over the country are sitting around wondering if, come next year, they'll be mayor, assembly-member, or unemployed.

How many hundreds of millions of dollars did we spend on this boondoggle again?! For how many election cycles in a row can Tibisay Lucena get away with first telling us we have the best, most reliable, high-tech and fastest electoral system in the world and then sitting on results for hours (or days or weeks or months) on end after they've come in?

A post-mortem of my own

Juan Cristobal says: - Scattered thoughts on yesterday's election:

1. Four words: hard work pays off.
The victories by Ledezma, Rosales, Capriles, and especially Carlos Ocariz underline something the opposition should etch onto their foreheads: you can't win elections without talking to voters and working hard to earn their trust.

Ocariz has been kicking those hills for eight years. Ledezma worked hard for this election, as did Capriles, who last week even had the gall to campaign in Los Valles del Tuy, deep chavista territory. All of them carried a positive message, all of them placed the voters' concerns front and center, none of them made Chavez an issue in their campaign.

2. Liliana needs a day job.
As much as I dislike her, it was painful to see Liliana Hernandez come in fourth in Chacao, after Grateron, Muchacho and, get this, the PSUV candidate. That's just wrong. Finishing behind the chavista in Chacao is like a horse coming in after the ambulance.

Hernandez belongs in the National Assembly fighting with chavistas, not in some mayor's post where she actually has to feign empathy for people's concerns and solve problems. It just doesn't suit her.

3. The parties that matter.
The opposition showed that it's really UNT, PJ and the Copei/PV axis. Ledezma and Morel Rodriguez are one-man political parties, they really belong in UNT, it would make everyone's life simpler.

4. The parties that have stopped mattering.
AD, MAS, PODEMOS, La Causa R, Convergencia, PPT - all vestigial wings. Good riddance.

5. Message to chavismo: moderate or become irrelevant.
Who were the big winners in this election on the government's side? Henry Falcon, Tarek William Saab, Marcos Diaz Orellana, Rafael Isea. All moderates (insofar as a chavista can be moderate) and, except for Saab, relatively new faces.

After ten years in power, chavistas need to renew their ranks and go for moderates who can actually deliver. Because what this election was about was efficiency in providing local services, as all regional elections should be.

6. God-given vacation.
After yesterday's humiliating defeat, one has to wonder what the future holds for Diosdado Cabello. I think he's a lock for an Ambassadorship. At any rate, his slim chances of succeeding Chavez in 2012 crumbled like the hills of Baruta last week.

7-I'll trade you my Velasquez for your Mardo.
People criticized Julio Borges for not backing Andres Velasquez in Bolivar. They may have a point. I think the real reason PJ was backing Rojas in Bolivar (a Podemos guy) was as in exchange for Podemos' support in the Maracay mayor's position, a city where Podemos has solid machinery and where PJ's Richard Mardo is expected to win. Hats off to Borges for pulling this off and broadening his party's appeal beyond Miranda.

8. Re-election now.
It's clear Chavez doesn't have the votes to try and reform the Constitution so he can run again in 2012. And with the price of oil tanking, the longer he waits, the less resources he'll have to keep clients satisfied and fund his electoral machine.

Launching the reform proposal now would be absolutely crazy, but waiting would be even worse for his chances. Expect Chavez to announce it in the coming days.

9. Medvedev is Russian for "quítate-tu-pa-poneme-yo."
With inner-circle chavistas losing yesterday and chavista moderates winning, the race to succeed Hugo Chavez in 2012 just got very interesting.

It's possible Chavez will run a flunky (Willian Lara? Carrizalez? Jorge Rodriguez?) making it clear to everyone he will remain in charge. Will it work? Stay tuned.

10. You give dissidence a bad name.
Lenny Manuitt, Julio Cesar Reyes, Bella Maria Petrizzo, get the hint: there is no dissidence in chavismo. It's either his way, or our way. Not learning this lesson in time has left you as electoral roadkill, ni chicha ni limonada, just unemployed.

Tarek, Henry and The Cat

Quico says: Here's some more Excel fun.

Last night, chavistas scored 710,336 more votes for governor than non-chavistas. Fully two-thirds of that lead came from just three states: Anzoátegui, Lara and Monagas, which Chavismo won by a combined margin of 470,715 votes.

What do the three have in common? Popular chavista governors who did not want Constitutional Reform. In fact, in last year's Constitutional Reform Referendum, the pro-Government Sí side lost those three states by a combined margin of 8,148 votes.

What that means to you is that if those states had voted last night as they did a year ago, chavismo's popular vote margin would've been 2.4%, rather than 7%.

For Chávez, it means something different. There are three simple reasons he can't stand for re-election again in 2012: Tarek, Henry and The Cat.

Geeking out with Excel

Quico says: Here's another way to slice yesterday's results: how did Chavista candidates do in comparison with the "Sí" vote from a year ago ago?
Click to enlarge.

Turns out Chavista candidates outscored the government's 2007 referendum results in 12 states. They underperformed the referendum results in 10 states and Distrito Capital.

The first thing that jumps out at you is that, while we didn't win anywhere rural, we made steady gains throughout the llanos. In fact, we made up ground in Cojedes, Guarico, Barinas, Portuguesa, and Apure compared to where we were a year ago. Yaracuy - a special case, considering the Lapi family saga - is the only Plains state where we lost ground.

But what's really interesting is that three out of the four states where chavistas outperformed the Sí side by the biggest margins are places where very popular chavista candidates got re-elected: Monagas, Anzoátegui and, most of all, Lara, where Henry Falcón got a massive 24 point edge over the "Sí" tally. Why did those three do so much better yesterday than the "Sí" did a year ago? Maybe because, a year ago, all three of them campaigned for the "No" side!

What does that tell you? That if Chávez is thinking of bringing up another constitutional reform to enshrine indefinite re-election, he's going to end up facing the same problem he had last year: popular incumbent PSUV governors mobilizing their voters against him.

The Popular Vote: Chavismo Wins (Corrected)

Quico says: Working off of CNE's first bulletin, it looks like chavismo just took more votes nationwide than we did yesterday:

I've corrected this chart to include Central Caracas only (rather than Metropolitan Caracas) in order to avoid double-counting voters in Chacao, Baruta, Petare and El Hatillo. That change adds 1.1% to PSUV's nationwide total.

State by state, it becomes clear that the huge margins PSUV ran up on us in rural states overwhelmed our advantage in urban states:

Click to enlarge - all non-PSUV votes added for readability.

The state-by-state tally:

Especially noteworthy here is Henry Falcon's Lukashenkoesque margin of victory in Lara. In fact, a quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that PSUV's entire nationwide lead rests on Lara. If you reattribute Falcón's votes to the "dissident" column (where they belong!) PSUV's national share drops to 49.2%!

Obviously, that's a pretty rough way of figuring it. Of course PSUV would've gotten some votes even if Falcón had run as a dissident. But still, a massive portion of the chavistas' lead comes down to the popularity of a single guaro who doesn't really get along with the leadership in Caracas.

Disjointed Morning-After Thoughts

Quico says: I detest more-than-one-topic-per-post posts, but I'm too frazzled and sleep deprived to do better:

1. Los tres cochinitos
Meet the new leaders of the opposition. These three. Ledezma, Ocariz and Capriles: three big wins in Caracas area districts with lots of poor people. Unfair as it is, the other oppo winners from last night have a built in handicap: they just live too darn far away from the big TV studios and news rooms. So these three now become the visible heads of the opposition, the de facto leadership.

They'll have to cooperate. But don't kid yourselves, they'll also be competing. If you've ever seen The Weakest Link, you know the drill: making nice along the way may be necessary, but if you want the big prize, you just gotta knife the other guy in the back at the end. It's nothing personal. Business...just business.

So, which of these three would you rather see end up with the ring? For me, it's an absolute no-brainer...

2. It's the Parapara problem, stupid...
The standard journalistic frame about Venezuela, for the longest time, has been rich vs. poor. What last night suggests is that that's an increasingly outmoded frame. It's not rich vs. poor, it's urban vs. rural. The opposition can compete in poor urban areas. It's in the countryside where we got served again and again and again.

The Parapara Problem is still kicking our butts. In recent years, we've barely ever heard opposition figures pose the problem in City v. Country terms. The oppo leadership hasn't even seemed aware that it had a problem in the countryside. Last night's results are so stark, the urban/rural divide so obvious, you'd hope they'd realize they just can't compete nationally without a rural message and a rural organization.

Then again, our Top Leaders are now all confirmed city slickers, people who wouldn't know how to plant a yuca if their lives depended on it.

Who will lead the big oppo rural revival?! We'd hoped for Julio Cesar just didn't pan out.

3. Next year
2009 will be the first year since 2003 without a National Vote. (Unless Chávez manufactures one somehow...)

4. It's the oil cycle, stupid...
Last night may be remembered as the last election of the Chávez Oil Bonanza. Venezuelan oil prices ended last week just a smidgen above $40/bbl. That shock hasn't really fed through to the real economy yet. Oil markets - like all markets - are inherently unpredictable, but there's a reasonable chance that last night was Chávez's last go at High Oil Electioneering. And there's just no way to make the maths work to avoid a deep adjustment before 2010 if oil prices don't recover soon.

In Venezuela, it's foolish to interpret any election result without placing it in the context of the oil cycle: it's not that the opposition won 5 big urban states + Caracas last night, it's that we won 5 big urban states + Caracas in the boom part of the oil cycle.

5. Unity Über Alles
On this blog, we were fairly dismissive about the opposition's fixation with unity during this cycle, interpreting it as one part sound electoral tactics, two parts panicky squalid hysteria.

In the end splits really did cost us in Bolívar, Barinas and imaginably in some other places like Anzoátegui and Libertador, where we might have poached more votes from the other side if we hadn't been so disunited. The only place where Chavismo paid the price for their splits was Carabobo.

6. Who needs LL?
Juan Cristobal is a blogging GOD for starting to believe in Ledezma's chances before anyone else. (And, I gotta wonder, did Cadena-gate cost Aristóbulo?!)

7. Cosmic Payback
In a small, cosmic way, I feel that forcing Jorge Rodríguez to sit through weekly meetings flanked by Antonio Ledezma, Emilio Grateron, Gerardo Blyde, Carlos Ocariz and Miriam do Nascimento will be some tiny measure of payback for the sheer hell the man put us through back in 2003 and 2004.

8. All that is solid melts into air
What the hell happened in Sucre State?!

9. Who's afraid of the big bad turnout?
Last year, the chavista line was that they lost because turnout was down to 55%. Last night, turnout hit an unprecedentedly high (for a regional election) 65%, truly remarkable...and we still held our own.

10. The final map

Caution: Red objects on this map are smaller than they appear.

First Official Bulletín: Caracas es Caracas y el resto es monte, culebra y chavistas (with noted exceptions)

Quico says: The first official results are in. The opposition lost all the toss-ups except the one that mattered: the Metropolitan Mayor's Office in Caracas.

When all is said and done, we'll have 5 governorships, including the three most populous, as well as Metro Caracas. We still can't win anywhere rural, though.

I'm thrilled about the results in Caracas - especially Petare, where Carlos Ocariz is set to win big. But I'm desperately heartbroken about Barinas. We came so close...

November 23, 2008

First Results

Quico says: We can now confirm three opposition wins:
  • Pablo Perez has been elected Governor of Zulia
  • Henrique Salas Feo has been elected Governor of Carabobo
  • Morel Rodriguez has been re-elected Governor of Nueva Esparta
Not exactly earth-shattering news, we realize, but this is what we can say for sure at this point. We're trying to confirm other races.

It looks pretty good, but it'll be a long night.

Chigüire Forever!

Chigüire says: Any minute now we could get a bulletin with the final results from the December 2, 2007 referendum.

Plan República: Magical Realism Edition

Quico says: UnionRadio just reported that a bunch of hoods actually held up a voting center in Anzoátegui today, overpowered the Plan República soldiers, and stole two army rifles! Plop!

Super secret confidential inside info:

Quico says: I got nothin'...

Chutzpah Chronicles

Quico says: Muller Rojas denounces that the opposition is offering cash to people waiting in line to vote to go home!

Update: Teodoro says Muller Rojas sounded like he's been drinking. (Election night is so much fun!)

The Nerviest Hour

Quico says: Every election cycle, it's the same thing. The polls close. But results don't come out for another 3 or 4 hours. In the interim, we collectively go insane.

It's hit Borges. Ramos Allup too. They're peddling some weird theory about some strange fraud involving keeping voting centers open beyond the official closing time. How that works is anybody's guess.

It's hard to keep your head during the nerviest hour. The wait feels endless. Por dios.


Update: Teodoro Petkoff tries to de-dramatize Borges's statement.

What's at stake in Barinas

Quico says: El País of Spain is the only paper to have done some in depth reporting on the race for governor in Barinas. If you can read Spanish, don't miss it: terrific stuff.
"They have nine mansions in Barinas in their names, which they recognize. On top of that they've bought ranches, where they've built even basketball courts. The Chávezes hate me for making this public, but that hatred is reciprocated."

Wilmer Azuaje says the Chávezes are the biggest latifundists and capitalists in Barinas. He says old man Chávez used to own, in a town half an hour by car from the city called Camirí, a little farm called La Chavera, about 30 hectares before he became governor. "Now that little farm is 600 hectares" [about 600 football fields]. A bit frther on, by Isla de la Fantasía river, another member of the Chávez family has La Martinera, a 300 hectare ranch with a basketball court. Nacho also has another one in Santa Lucia, 700 hectares. One of Chávez's nephews has another scandalous farm. But the biggest one of them all belongs to Argenis, La Malagueña, which is registered to Nestor Izarra, a longtime family employee, and comes in at no less than 2000 hectares.
[Hat tip: Kep.]

Yet More Gossip: Street Money Edition

Quico says: PSUV offered its activists payments ranging from BsF. 2,000 to BsF. 4,000 ($900-1800 at the official exchange rate) to work on the campaign. The deal is half-cash, half Cestatickets. Plus Chávez has been promising prize trips to Cuba for the best campaign workers.

Desperation to mobilize folks? Maybe...but still, it's a measure of how brutally outspent we're getting. I mean, if the opposition had the possibility to offer those kinds of incentives to its rank-and-file, you can bet they'd jump on 'em.

(I really feel bad to have to keep my sources secret here, but some things are said in confidence and, understand.)

Resignifying the Porkchop

Quico says: A tiny observation: isn't it funny how the word "chuleta" (meaning cheat-sheet - but literally, porkchop) has been resignified over the last few days?

When I was a kid, a chuleta was, by definition, naughty: the thing you weren't supposed to bring with you to a test. But since CNE declared that it's ok to bring a cheat-sheet with you when you come to vote, I keep hearing all these people-in-authority reminding folks again and again to bring their chuletas...

This is a minor concession to sanity: the voting process today is mind-numbingly complicated. People in Petare, for instance, are expected to vote ten times (mayor, metropolitan mayor, and various numbers of votes for municipal council, state assembly and metropolitan city council) and the number of candidates and parties on the ballot is downright dizzying. Still, there's something weird about hearing, say, Julio Borges telling people again and again how important it is to, in a way, cheat!

(Of course, chigüire just did some resignifying of his own...)

Why Today Matters

Quico says: The funny thing is that today's elections matter almost entirely on a symbolic level. What we're seeing today is the latest installment in the decade-long psychodrama that has been the Chávez era.

With small and shrinking responsibilities and budgets, no tax-raising powers and levels of autonomy that ressemble that of US counties more than US states, Venezuelan governors and mayors can't really alter the political life of the country in any material sense. Least of all now, when the crash in oil prices (and, consequently in situado transfers) will make, to paraphrase an old cliché, "the winners envy the losers."

What's at stake here is something different: the political content of venezolanidad. For a decade, Chávez has been trying to sell us this story where the only Real Venezuelan (sound familiar to anyone?) is a chavista, that voting for the opposition is somehow un-venezuelan, even treasonous. Today, with any luck, the good burghers of Petare, Barinas, Trujillo, etc. will start to put the lie to this brand of emotional-blackmail-cum-political-discourse.

Chávez Cries Fraud!

Quico says: Bonkers but true: Adan Chávez claims when his dad (a.k.a. Governor Chávez) voted in Barinas, the machine printed out a ballot voucher that didn't match the name of the person he had just voted for!

Imagine This?

Rafael (from the comments section) says: With all this talk about how this time Chavez has a lot to lose, not much mention has been made of what happens if we end up with Sucre, Nueva Esparta and nothing else...

That would be a complete reversal of any momentum from last december, and a return to the wilderness from which we may not be able to recover in a long time. That would leave the door open for the approval of the indefinite reelection, and being out of any important regional office for a few more years may make people thing that the only legitimate office pretenders have to be chavistas. The only reason Rosales and his bunch are competitive right now is because they have been there recently, not because of any other particular talent or quality.

I have a bad feeling about this one, we should be much further ahead.

Quico ads: I want to be clear. This is not the most likely scenario. As of one week ago, polling still showed us narrowly ahead in Carabobo, Zulia, Táchira, Trujillo, and Guarico, with Miranda and Barinas basically tied and Cojedes within reach. This here is the worst-case scenario, what would happen if PSUV got a boost in the last week of the campaign and then beat the hell out of us at the turnout game. We're in possible-but-not-likely land here.

The Lee Atwater Awards: Valencia Edition

Quico says: Another bit of polling gossip: support for the incumbent, dissident chavista Governor of Carabobo, Luis Felipe Acosta Carlez (a.k.a., Cap'n Burp), has apparently completely collapsed in the wake of the arrest of his buddy, Valencia mayoral candidate Abdalá Makled.

Along with Chávez's repeated visits, this is turning Carabobo into a two-horse race, with the chavista vote congealing around the execrable Chávez sycophant/attack dog Mario Silva. The three-way dynamic that had been such a boon to oppo candidate Henrique Salas Feo is no more, giving way to a still-unlikely-but-increasingly-imaginable upset by PSUV.

If the government pulls this off, whomever thought up the genius plan to set up Makled's brother for drug trafficking just day's before the election deserves the Lee Atwater Award for Machiavellianism and Dirty Trickery.

(Incidentally, chigüire is on fire this weekend.)

Where are they now? Election edition (+ Bonus rant)

Quico says: Ever wonder what ever happened to Luis Alfonso Dávila, the Miquilenista former chairman of the National Assembly and Interior Minister? Or to Pedro Soto, Air Force captain who set off that string of anti-Chávez pronouncements by active duty officers back in 2002? Or to David de Lima, former governor of Anzoátegui? Or to Rogelio Peña, former Adeco mayor of Barinas and star of my documentary on the Lands' Law?

You guessed it: they're all running no-hope campaigns for governor - of Anzoátegui, Aragua, Anzoátegui and Barinas, respectively.

Bonus rant: Why oh why do so many politicos in Venezuela go to the trouble of running for offices they haven't the slightest sliver of a chance of winning...what's the point?! What good does it do anyone!?

There are eleven candidates for governor in Táchira! In Vargas, things are so out of hand they need two tarjetones to fit in the thirteen candidates for governor! It's insane, most of these people wouldn't get recognized by their neighbors walking down the street.

That's why Venezuelan ballots sprawl so absurdly out of control...seriously, look at that Distrito Metropolitano don't need a chuleta to make sense of that, you need an atamel.

And another thing...what's with all these tiny parties? Dozens and dozens of them...springing up like mushrooms after spring rain, they turn the simple act of voting into a baffling ordeal.

Sure, there's the unburied dead...the MEPs and Causa Rs and URDs and MASs of this world...parties well past their sell-by dates that have petered out to insignificance without quite vanishing altogether.

But that's not the worst of it...what I want to know is, on what ontological plane does "Vision Venezuela" exist? Or "Poder Laboral"?! Or "Vanguardia Popular"? How about "Guardianes de la Patria" (some of these have terrifying, Minutemen-sounding names)? Or - I swear I'm not making this up - the "Partido Auténtico Nacional - PANA"? Do these parties hold weekly CEN meetings? Do they have CENs!? If you put their entire membership in a VW Beetle, would you have room left over for your girlfriend and her dog? And, most pressing of all, why don't they get a life?!

In England,
they have a simple but effective way to deal with this problem. If you want to appear on the ballot, you have to pay a 500 pound deposit. If you get more than 5% of the vote, that money is returned. If you don't, you lose it.

It's a clever system, when you think about it: giving everyone ballot access while at the same time penalizing la mamadera de gallo. It's even worked its way into the British political vernacular, where "losing your deposit" has become shorthand for an utter electoral drubbing.

The upshot is that British ballots are blissfully free of loonies and no-hopers (well, mostly free). Unlike with our ballots, you can actually make sense of a British ballot just by glancing at it...even if you don't have a double Ph.D in Political Science and Graphic Design!

See? Simple.

A deposit system...would that be so hard? Would it be too high a price to pay for ballots that normal people can make sense of? Would it?