Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Venezuelan Regional elections of 2004: AD’s collapse in Merida

If in Zulia chavismo lost due a very poor electoral strategy and a completely inadequate candidate, the opposition sometimes committed a few bungles of its own when picking its candidates. Merida is such an example.

The Merida situation prior August 15

Outside of Caracas and Zulia the city of Merida, the capital of the same name state, was a hot bed of the anti-Chavez movement. During the first semester of 2004 Merida witnessed large riots. The University of Los Andes, hence a progressive university gave chavismo a major set back when the internal elections yielded a new Rector from the opposition, with a very large vote. All seemed to point out that Merida state was a more than likely pick for the opposition.

But chavismo did campaign hard in the small villages hidden in the mountains, and too neglected for too long. The contrast between the modern and vibrant city of Merida and its quaint and touristy hinterland came to view when the SI lost in Merida, although by a not too severe 176 thousand NO to a150 thousand for the SI.

The gubernatorial campaign

In the 2000 elections the AD candidate William Davila lost barely to the Chavez candidate Porras. That election was denounced as a fraudulent but the case never was settled and amazingly Porras went through his term with that albatross on him. Davila was in a way the poster boy of the possible electoral fraud. However that did not stop AD and him to feud to the point of AD expelling him! As a result AD decided to go solo in Merida while Davila as an intractable “victim” set its own electoral effort.

I do remember in a visit that I did about a year ago to Merida talking to a few people. The impression I gathered was that Porras was not liked, should loose the election, but Davila was not too liked himself. It seemed to me that Davila could beat Porras but it could be easier if there was another candidate. No one thought that AD should run on its own. Well, this is what happened, AD decided to run its own candidate and to forget about a unique front.

The resuts

Sure enough it turned out to be a disaster for the opposition. I am not too sure what happened in Merida, nor how the campaign was conducted, but from afar it seems that the election was more of a feud between AD and its most known dissident. Both bit the dust badly.


Merida

Vote Governor

AD coalition 35
AD only 23
Ex AD gov. 48 Vote List
Total Opposition 87
69.7
SI vote 150 80%
Vote loss 42%
MVR coalition 136
121
NO vote 176 89%
Vote loss 22.7%


What is most noteworthy to observe is that Porras through his MVR coalition got 136 K votes, only 22.7% below the NO vote of August. A much better record than for example the Zulia result. On the other hand the opposition together lost 42% of the SI vote!!! Here the abstention is most certainly due to a disgust for the offered choices than to any Caracas driven abstention movement.

In another detail, within the AD coalition AD only gets 2/3 of the votes, 23K. And the coalition is beaten badly 48 to 35K by the dissident Davila! Belandria’s AD got ONLY 10.4% through AD and only 15.5% of the total votes cast for his coalition (note: abstention was 48.5%). This is really a major defeat for AD in a state where it thought it could win. The miscalculation of AD seems just unbelievable!

The division within AD must have been so unpalatable to the electorate, and must created such a havoc within the electoral machinery of the opposition that even in the vote list for the state legislature one can observe that the MVR coalition gathered 89% of the votes it got for governor, which is quite good. The opposition total was only 80%, with the normal consequences as to the composition of the state legislature: Porras will have NO opposition legislators!


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