It is rather late to give the conclusions of the November 23 electoral joust. But a new election sneaked in and well, you know, I had to cover two elections at once. Thus this post can be considered the last of the 2008 series but also the preamble of the 2009 series. And to illustrate this duality I will like to look at the Lara state results.
Lara is a very interesting state because it is supposed to be a chavista bastion and yet as the table on the right, click to enlarge, shows it has a high electoral instability, meaning that chavismo can never be sure how it will perform there. And at a referendum time this is quite a handicap as the 2007 "surprise" illustrates when Chavez lost the referendum in Lara. It is also interesting to observe that the percentage of votes obtained in Lara bears little relationship with the actual amount of votes gained there. The top vote getting was for Chavez in 2006, but Henry Falcon gets 7% more share with almost 70 000 votes less. And yet chavismo should not be happy with that result at all: at least 100 000 of these votes are cross votes from the opposition!!!
If you look at the 2008 details you will see that there were almost 120 000 more votes cast for governor than for the state legislature. I know it is more difficult and maybe less interesting to vote for legislators, but that is quite a difference, is it not? And when you look at who lost the most votes you can see by yourself that the PSUV lost 50.000 but its allies more than 100.000! However the opposition in spite of its division loses much less. In fact, Primero Justicia gets more vote in the legislature list than for the governor they supported!
There is only one explanation for the numbers that you see in that table on the right: the new governor of Lara, Henry Falcon, is a free agent of chavismo, well, almost, and a significant chunk of chavismo will not follow Chavez every time. From 2006 to 2007 chavismo lost 120.000. But it did not recover them to elect Falcon: at least 100.000 of his electors came from the opposition. Chavismo must be worried sick about Lara this time around: not only Lara could contribute even more to a NO result next February, but a solid NO victory could even force the hand of Falcon to become in turn a dissident. All that is at stake for Chavez in 2009 is illustrated in Lara!
And this is perhaps the most important result of 2008: Chavez might have reached his last historical plateau. If we believe chavismo account of 53% of the popular vote it is way below the 66% of Chavez two years ago, the more damaging that the regional election campaign became a plebiscite on Chavez due to his grotesque intervention in the election. Indeed chavismo did win more votes than the opposition on November 23 but as we have seen there are many factors that diminish greatly whatever positive might reside in that 53. For example, key states were lost. For example, dissidence might not have been as strong as expected but the way in which chavismo dealt with it will come back to haunt them. For example rural vote might have gone for Chavez, but all indicate that a significant fraction of it was a "dependency" vote. Maybe individually these things are not that big, but taken together they are very ominous for the next referendum.
But the opposition should not gloat as much as some of its spokespeople do. It still lack in vote even though it has been growing steadily since 2006. And even if it wins next February, its difficulty at unifying its electorate weakens its future perspectives. The arrogance of a a few local leaders was enough to cause the loss of at least 10% of the districts that should have gone to the opposition. The opposition has thus three urgent tasks that it must conduct almost simultaneously:
- get ready for the amendment referendum.
- find a way to effect better unity for the municipal council elections later in 2009.
- offer a real program that can carry the opposition to a National Assembly victory in 2010.
The work starts today, Xmas or not.