And to keep the suspense short, it is the high rate of abstention.
Yeah, yeah, chavismo got 80% of the seats, and this and that, but this is not very interesting to discuss as it was already predicted. As I wrote yesterday, it is enough to look at some key results to have an idea of the local variations played, something expected in a local election, the only real interesting thing. Even within chavismo, local disputes affected the outcome of that 80%, as the Tupamaros were protesting today claiming that chavismo "morochas" had robbed them of councilmen supposedly elected on their lists. Welcome to the opposition frustrations Tupamaros! It was fun to see you on Globovision tonight. They did not want to receive you in VTV?
But the abstention number, the official CNE of 69.18% (you gotta love that 0.18!), this is the number that excites all from chavismo to antichavismo. Definitely the political frame has shifted yesterday. Thus, let's go by parts.
Pollsters in the mist
...,les augures menteurs,...
Some polls before the election were giving all sorts of high numbers for Chavez, as high as 80% even as many questions would cast doubt as to the methods of the polling. Reminder: a country that has suffered the apartheid making Tascon's list is not going to reply very honestly to pollsters. Pollsters seem to be unable or unwilling to modify their techniques and keep getting weird results.
This does not mean that I do not acknowledge Chavez appeal, and after Sunday I would look like a fool pretending otherwise. But certainly that support is very badly evaluated. A little bit over a week ago the director of Keller and associates, the only polling firm that seems to get its act together these days, was interviewed by Roberto Giusti. This fascinating interview has been translated into English. What is remarkable in the work of Keller is the differentiation between illusion and reality in Chavez supporters and how Chavez manages to maintain popularity on the illusion he creates rather than actual deeds. The conclusion, one that this blogger has always held to, is that the hard core chavismo vote is 30%, something that even in the heyday of opposition hopes in the mid 2003 when some polls seem to drop Chavez to 20% and so many people were so willing to accept, I always supported.
It seems that Sunday's result will force people to consider Alfredo Keller a little bit more seriously. Unfortunately for the opposition, his numbers do not point to an easy way out without work and a modicum of unity....
The CNE abstention
Et la foule grandit, plus innombrable encor.
The CNE has come out with its number and nobody believes it, not even the allegedly pro Chavez observers of Ojo Electoral who give 74% abstention. Sumate goes to 78.1% abstention. The truth is obviously somewhere in between, that is about the number of 2000. This is very bad for the CNE indeed. The 12/2000 elections came after two years of 6 difficult and tense elections. Actually, chavismo was so afraid of elector exhaustion that it added at the last minute a trade union referendum in the hope of stimulating participation. The result was disappointing as 76% stayed home.
But it gets worse. If it were not for the last minute prolongation, illegal prolongation, of voting hours until 7 PM, by the CNE own admission 500 000 more people would have been added to the abstention numbers, bringing the results to the 2000 one. If voter fatigue was obvious in 2000, voter fatigue cannot be claimed today, even more as chavismo made a big issue of having its supporters go out and vote.
The CNE in fact has been trying extremely hard to cover this fiasco. Arrogance and grandiloquence and presidential congratulations, all was used to that effect, even a cadena of youth and student festival. But we all know what we saw on Sunday, or rather did not see. We all are still waiting for the visual evidence that at 4 PM on Sunday voting centers had so many people standing in line that voting hours had to be extended. So far we only have the word of Lucena and Rodriguez, and it has proven worthless long ago. It would be as if Cindy Crawford where to try to cover her beauty mark with make up: she might manage it but you would still know it is somewhere below.
It reeks of CNE fraud, yet again, and a miserable one as it is not even a matter of changing voting numbers, just trying to have people show up.
The chavismo abstention
Pour les âges futurs, l'héroïque Laurier.
Of the opposition abstention there is not much to say. It had been announced, people had campaigned for abstention, the CNE even emitted veiled threats against such a campaign. Whether the strategy of abstention promoters to fight chavismo is good or not is not for today, but that abstention was not a surprise.
But the chavismo abstention was a surprise. Let's, for the sake of argument, believe the CNE number of 70 %. And let's believe the datanalisis polls of 70% for Chavez. And let's assume that of the 30% that voted, 8% only were opposition. So we have 70% chavistas of which less, much less than half of them, 22 %, bothered to vote, IN SPITE of a dedicated campaign, IN SPITE of even a semi cadena on voting day, IN SPITE of all the free bees distributed, IN SPITE of last minute voting hours, and IN SPITE of many other things we do not know about.
Any long winded explanation on how these type of elections always provoke high abstention cannot explain how come a leadership based on passion (see the Keller interview above) cannot convince more than a third of its followers to go and vote.
Why the abstention?
Déjà le temps brandit l'arme fatale.
It is actually very simple, beyond all sorts of complex explanations such as why misiones cannot buy eternal loyalty. The fact is simply that in a regime that is more and more centralized around a unique leader, it becomes pointless to vote for anything as all know that it is irrelevant. The leader might as well name whoever he wants. Thus, in a future measure, as a hardening of the government is sure to follow such a spiteful electoral demonstration, we can expect the "democracia participativa" to find ways to force people to go and vote. Chavez needs more votes in 2006 than he got in 2004. A veneer of democracy needs to be shown to the world. Or why else did you think the electronic voter registration is all about? It is to know who voted and for whom. That for sure will encourage people to move their butts on election days.
All verses from the same French poet. Bonus point to whomever guesses the name.