The prediction issue
The first thing that I would have liked to address is the prediction that I made. I did predict a Chavez victory by 3%. OK, so my margin was wrong but at least I picked up the winner. So, at the very least, for the detractors that mocked me I would like them to acknowledge that my political sense of reality was not that off, and certainly closer than most TV stars of the talk show circuit.
However there is another prediction that turned to be pretty decent. If it is true that Rosales lost even in Zulia (which has got to be the biggest shocker for me of election night!), that does not mean that my knowledge of local politics is bad. Let's say that I got the margins all wrong but however I did get pretty much the electoral order. In the figure below I put on the right column the different states in order from higher to lower percentile result for Chavez. And on the right column you can see the final result in percentile order for Rosales.
The arrows connect the same states at its new position. From thick red, perfect hit, to thin blue, quite a miss. I get 15 states within 2 positions at most of their final ranking!!! That is from “Acceptable” to “Perfect Score”. I indulge with two passable scores and I really mess up in 8 states. Two errors are actually unforgivable for me, Merida and Tachira. In a previous prediction I had them ranked higher and had I put Tachira in second position for my very last prediction (I allowed myself to be swayed by the hundred of buses that carried chavistas to San Cristobal for a last rally of Chavez there) I would have scores 15 Perfect/Great scores. I wonder if in the Rosales, or even Chavez camp anyone had as good a result as the graph above. In other words, and outside of the margin of victory, until proven otherwise I have the best overall prediction score. And I did not need to hire any expensive pollster (pat, pat, on the back).
The margin of victory
I do not know how to explain that. I always thought that it would be less than the recall election margin, and it grew. Yes, there was all the obscene electoral advantage so justly decried today in the EU preliminary report, but still, that should not account for much more than 5 points and it still would leave us with a margin almost as high as the Recall Election.
Cheating? With the recognition of Rosales and the voter participation any cheating is only marginal and par for the course. No matter how many bus carried chavista multiple voters and how many centers the army forced their reopening, that could not possibly account for much more than a point or two, and would be glaring at this size to be noticeable enough to have Rosales and co. scream bloody murder.
The elections per se
With Rosales conceding Monday night and saying today that his data is pretty close form the CNE data, then we can already look at the CNE data. But first the good and the bad of the CNE.
Good: their web page worked much better and faster than in previous elections, they are now as good as Bolivia or Peru or Mexico; voting lines were not as painful as 2 years ago
Bad: nothing much has been done to improve the trust in the electoral system. From the incredibly unfair electoral advantage that Chavez had in using state income without the CNE ever complaining, to the finger printing machines which I am sure improved Chavez results by scaring many a public employee, the CNE has a lot of work to do to clean up its act. And I am not even getting in the electoral registry which has big problems that could affect enormously the local elections two years form now. I, for one, am not impressed, and if ready to accept some slight improvement, I still do not trust the voting system. Major fraud like in the Recall Election is probably not possible anymore, but fraud is still possible as long as the CNE remains lax and 4 to 0 pro Chavez.
Some interesting results
We have already seen the Chavez margin. But what is interesting here is that the opposition did not improve much since the Recall Election but Chavez added 1.3 million votes.
Now for the details.
The main political party now is MVR. The surprise in the pro Chavez vote is that all of its junior partner did lousy everywhere. The MVR has a 42% nation wide but none of his allies mange to reach 7%!!! In fact there are some notorious losers: Lina Ron group does not even get 1% of the national vote, does not even do well in Caracas where she rakes a meager 1%. In other words, whether these parties want to fusion into a single party or not, they have no choice: the MVR is already a monolith and they better negotiate fast their entry.
In the opposition things are more nuanced. Rosales party is now the second party of Venezuela with a not too shabby 13,4% for a first run, considering that it is a local political organization. But this is very misleading because many AD voted for him through his label and the bulk of the votes still come from Zulia. In reality the second party of Venezuela is now Primero Justicia who with 11.2% nationwide is a true national party, not confined anymore to the Caracas ghetto. For example Primero Justicia did get a few respectable scores elsewhere when you compare it to its 17.4% in Caracas and 21.5% in Miranda: 14.1% in Anzoategui, 14,4% in Carabobo and Tachira, or even a respectable 12.8% in Nueva Esparta or 11.3% in Aragua. In fact in San Cristobal itself PJ got 24% of the vote and San Diego (Valencia East) 30.3%. Even in Zulia it managed to rob Rosales of 7.3% of the vote! Thus except in Carabobo where PJ hides the collapsing PV vote, it is now the only real national option against Chavez, "duelale a quien le duela".
The big surprise for the opposition is that all the other parties are dead. AD is somewhat disguised within Rosales party but none of the other ones managed a 1% share!!! Except for COPEI which managed a meager 2.2%. The aggiornamiento of the opposition has taken place, as much in attitude as vote strength. We will notice in particular the extinction of the non chavista left (MAS, Izquierda Dem, Solidaridad, Causa R, Bandera Roja), or the rather sad failure of new movements such as Un Solo Pueblo (though the failure of Roberto Smith and El Conde's PIEDRA are welcome news).
On the distribution of the vote the polarization of Venezuela is clearer than ever. Urban centers which contain middle class, professional, universities, and cultural centers tend to vote against Chavez, sometimes in huge margins. Rural areas, slums, workers areas tend to vote for Chavez, sometimes in overwhelming majorities. It is important to stress that even the richest areas of Venezuela have ALWAYS a "barrio" within so there is always some chavista vote everywhere, even in Chacao.
Potential weak areas for chavismo
Well, it might sound foolish for me to write this so early, but Chavez has already proven that his coattails are limited. Plenty of states got significant lower percentage of chavista votes in October 2004 than what Chavez got in August 2004. Yes I know, campaign for local elections of 2008 will be even more unfair, if possible, than this campaign, but the opposition needs already to target the places where it has a chance. And I prefer to discuss this here than in the interpretation post. These options are:
Caracas. With 535000 votes to 788000 for Chavez one would think that Barreto reelection is a shoo in. Far from it. Caracas is great at vote crossing and the Barreto rule has been such an unmitigated disaster that PJ has all of the chances to take the biggest electoral prize of Venezuela after Zulia. Chavistas are desperate to move into Chacao and Baruta, they might even vote for PJ mayors, of proven track record for all to see.
Zulia should remain in the hands of the opposition. If Rosales cannot run again, neither chavismo or opposition has a strong candidate. And if Rosales manages to remain a national leader, the opposition should have it easy there.
Tachira and Merida. The governors, lousy as they are already, cannot run again. Andeans are getting visibly tired of loud mouthed Chavez. The question is to figure out whether UNT or PJ will rally the opposition in a unique candidacy. If they manage unity I doubt very much that chavismo will retain them, at least as long as electoral conditions do not get worse.
Other longer shots. Anzoategui could be a pick, and Nueva Esparta could be retained. More difficult but still possible are Yaracuy and Carabobo. Miranda also if PJ manages a strong challenge in Caracas that boosts its vote in Miranda. Diosdado has not been a great governor at all. Well, no chavista has turned out to be a good governor, not a single one of them though some mayors are acceptable. There is also Falcon, but that is a rather very long shot as no one in the opposition did have a clear leadership there.
Chavismo sure bets. Anything under Lara in the graph above is a shoo in for chavismo even if they run a red dog. I cannot see how any of those states could be won by the opposition, unless chavismo divides itself, always a possibility.
Before I move into the interpretation of these results in a next post, there is one simple conclusion: Chavez might have won with the largest vote in Venezuela history, but he has failed to make any dent in that 4 million that oppose him, that will not be bought, swayed, convinced, cajoled, no matter what subway he throws at them. His growth comes only from new voters, not from the young voters. That is, commendably, he has included more voters into the system, but that seems to be his only source of new voters. Thus, will he finally take us into account or will he deliberately keep his elimination policies against us who voted and will always vote against him?