On December 6th, 2015, Venezuela will elect its new National Assembly. Clearly, the opposition will get the most votes, likely by a large margin. But will the opposition "win". That I am not so sure. Yes, the odds are in its favor and Chavismo seems to be screwing up the economy sufficiently that there is no way Chavismo can win.
But I worry.
I worry, because Chavismo will pull out the 1001 tricks, from gerrymandering, to banning candidates, to cheating. And it is clear that today, Chavismo thinks that it will win. But I think they should be worried too. The trend is so bad for them, that they may need twice as many dirty tricks to win by the time December comes around. As I noted in my last post, the acceleration of inflation, discontent, protests and scarcity is such, that in four months, very few of the hard core Chavistas will give Maduro the benefit of the doubt.
But this does not mean they will vote for the opposition. And the opposition will need all the votes it can get. In fact, the opposition le by the MUD called for a march last weekend. And so few people went, that there were no marches. Some political parties did not even show up. In the end, the "leaders" addressed the militants, but most people that went, left early, disappointed at the non-event.
So, let me show you why I worry:
First, let's try to remember the last Parliamentary elections. In the last Parliamentary election, Chavismo got 48.1% of the vote and the opposition got 50.2% of the vote. But Chavismo got 59.4% of the Deputies (98 of them) and the opposition only got 40.6% of them (67 Deputies).
Now, most people think that this was mostly due to gerrymandering, the effect of redistricting to favor Chavismo.
However, estimates are that the opposition should have obtained 84 Deputies if the system was exactly proportional or a difference of only 17 Deputies (84 for the opposition and 81 for Chavismo). But only 5 of them would be explained by gerrymandering.
The second origin of the difference is that the "opposition" that got 50.2% of the votes, was composed of two parties: The MUD, which got 47.1% and PPT which got 3.2%. Thus, even in the strict sense of the word, Chavismo would have had a majority, as that division between MUD and PPT implied in a "proportional system" that Chavismo would get 84 Deputies and the MUD 76, while PPT would have obtained 4. Add three Deputies that were simply due to this "division".
Remember this factor later in the post.
A more important factor is the over-representation of less populated states. When the Constitution was changed and the Senate was eliminated, each State got three Deputies first then however many their population would imply. Thus, humble Delta Amacuro with 100,000 voters has 4 Deputies, one for its population and 3 for being a State.
Zulia, in contrast, has 15 Deputies, only five times more than Delta Amacuro, despite having a population that is twenty times more.
Similarly, up to 1997, each circuit could not vary by more than a certain amount. This was eliminated and the CNE can decide how few or how many people elect one Deputy in each district. The CNE has wrecked havoc with this.
Other effects, for example, is that PPT got 28% of the vote in Lara State and got no Deputies.
My whole point here is that Chavismo will do anything to manipulate and obtain an edge in the upcoming election.
So, when I hear that Ramos Allup is a candidate in Caracas and Marquina in Lara, I have to worry, because by choosing people arbitrarily and not by primaries, the MUD may be playing into unintended consequences.
And I worry even more when I hear that Claudio Fermín (Yes, he is alive) has decided to run candidates in 16 States, which will run against both the opposition candidates and Chavista candidates. Now, I have no reasons to question Mr. Fermín's allegiances, integrity and/or beliefs, but after being a no-show in Venezuelan politics for so long, all of a sudden Mr. Fermín has found the resources (read: money) and the people (where?) to run candidacies in 16 States?
Really? Who is paying for this? Pardon me if I am being cynical.
And these candidates will run as "opposition candidates", against Chavista candidates, managing to do exactly what we don't want: divide opposition votes. They would help more if they ran like Chavistas. But that is not what they are being paid for.
But the MUD set up itself for a maneuver like this (No doubt promoted and financed by Chavismo) by not holding primaries, by cornering power within the MUD by people that have no constituency and believing that their manipulation will not impact the final number of Deputies.
In one sentence: For being stupid and arrogant.
So, now go back to the thought that PPT subtracted Deputies from the opposition's total in the 2010 election just by running separately and you will know where I am coming from. I would not be surprised if Fermín's candidates are sprinkled selectively in precisely the districts where the opposition may be running into competition.
A carefully placed (and well funded) candidate in ten or fifteen districts, could switch the election to the other side.
Add to that banning people like Maria Corina, cheating, electoral centers with no opposition witnesses, good organizers like Ledezma and Leopoldo being in jail, and it all adds up. You could turn the election on a dime.
And thus, I am worried. Non-marches like last Saturday's worry me. Movements to have people not vote worry me. The after effect of a loss on December 6th, worries me. Marquina being a candidate in Lara worries me and the fact that Ramus Allup could get another four years in Venezuelan's political life, gives me nightmares.
Which is not to say that Chavismo should not be worried. Given the trends, people may be so mad by the time election time comes around that there is no amount of tricks that can help Chavismo.
In fact, Chavistas may just stay home and the opposition may surprise the tricksters.
But it is not a predictable outcome and the MUD has not done, in my opinion, the required "smart" job to insure victory.
In fact, I think it has done the opposite: It has created the possibility that Chavismo could win, by being so narcissistic and selfish.
Legislative elections are won on regional factors, not on playing favorites on parties that have little popularity and constituencies.
You've been warned...
You've been warned...