Sunday, October 18, 2009

The 2010 Venezuelan votes: the "list" voting

I need to start this post with an erratum of sorts. I must confess that when I wrote the preceding posts I had not read in full the new electoral law. The reason is that I had read enough tidbits about it to have a fairly good idea of what was its purpose, and also because as far as I know the law is not officially approved yet. That is, it only appears in the SUMATE page and it does not appear in either the CNE page or the Nazional Assembly one. Curious no? Perhaps they will heed the advice of people like Ojo Electoral, who have been accused on occasion to be too lax with the CNE or chavismo, and who still go out of their way to explain how chavismo could, with that law, get 84% of the seats with only 45% of the votes, thus violating the basic principle of the constitution that demands a proportional representation.

But now I have read the whole thing and allow me to say that my calculations of preceding posts was actually bland: the realty is worse than what I assumed it to be. In particular is the realization that the famous "list vote", which is the one supposed to guarantee proportional representation has been tampered. Now, in every state there will be ONLY 2 or 3 list seats, according to the population. This mean, no way around it, that a "minority party" will need at the very least 25% of the vote to have a chance at a seat!!! And some find the 5% German rule too tough.....

Thus in this post we are going to start looking at the "list vote" as it stands currently on the new law, hoping against all hope that the CNE will not dare to go as far as it was proposed. But I am not holding my breath because as you can see from the first graph, chavismo benefits too much of this advantage to give it up.

The "list vote cheating"

In this first table I have compared the list vote seats of 2005 with the putative ones for 2010 (as usual, right click to enlarge in a different window). I have divided the states according to the traditional regional divisions I have used in the past, for the long time readers. The left side of the table is a simple summary of how the seats were allocated in 2005 (and 2000 and 1998 for that matter). The right side of the table would be the 2010 configuration.

I have also put in light blue the states where the opposition did its best scores in the 2008 regional elections, NOT where it won, but where it did its best score.

In 2010 all states will have 2 or 3 list vote seats. Thus on the "loss from 2005" column I indicate the numbers of seat lists lost in each state (curiously with that system Amazonas actually gains one list vote, which might be a chance for the opposition to grab a seat in what is considered a 100% chavista bastion). Finally in the last columns you will see the supposedly new increased numbers of district seats per state, a topic that I will reserve for a coming post.


What is the first observation we can see? Most of the states affected are the states where the opposition stands a good chance to make a good score next year. In fact, Lara and Anzoategui can even be added to that list (yellow highlight) because in Lara governor's Falcon success is due to the opposition crossing over to vote for him and Anzoategui chavismo success was a fluke due to a lousy opposition campaign and the barring for election of the natural candidates, almost shoo-in for the state house.

The cheating here is two fold:

- All the states that get at least one more district seat will suffer extensive redrawing of districts, in particular opposition strongholds of Zulia and Miranda.

- And as indicated earlier on, the reduction of list seat is a sure way to penalize a divided opposition and to force minor pro Chavez party (PPT and PCV) to accept the PSUV terms. With a divided opposition the list seats would go mostly to chavismo.

You do not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out the intention of the regime in changing the electoral law....

The opposition and the list vote

So, what can the opposition do?

The good news is that "list seats" are the only "safe" seats for the opposition if it decides to unify its electoral lists. The next table indicates which are those that I consider to be "safe seats" based on past results, on trends, etc... That is those states where the opposition is certain to win or to get close to 40% which will make difficult for chavismo to get the all of the seats according to the calculation method in the new electoral law. Still the column of safe seats is only 21 our of 52 (though I do not give chavismo more than 25 safe seats which leaves really 6 contested seats at best).

My proposal is simple: name the "list seats" candidates according to personalities, a little bit like the "top" of the ticket, using these folks to campaign all across the state helping the other guys that will have it harder to win in the district seats as I have explained in previous post of this series.

The people named at the top should be charismatic politicians, the ones that will carry the national message of the opposition leaving the local messages to the district seats candidates. These folks, I argue, should not be selected according to a primary system because the scarcity of seats available to run makes sure that in a primary contest almost all seats would be gained by PJ, UNT and AD, shunting out the minor ones. I think thus it is better to leave those seats to the "bigger guys" from the start, but including some "personalities" and local folks to leaven it up some. A compensation mechanism can be designed when district seats are subjected to primaries; for example all the political parties beneficiaries of the safe seats choices would accept not to run in the primaries of a certain number of districts to make sure the small fry, such as ABP, get a chance to prove themselves and earn a couple of nominations.

There is also another advantage: once the big ones place their top 2-3 names on safe seats, they will be more willing to allow primaries everywhere else.

The table below reflects, based on previous results, how should the "safe seats" nominations be allocated, keeping in mind that "safe" is an adjective that can be used ONLY if there is a good electoral alliance.



I will discuss it by region.

Central states

In the central region Podemos should get the safe seat from Aragua. It is quite possible that with the competition between Proyecto Venezuela and Primero Justica there (PV and PJ) PODEMOS could lose! And I explained before we need Ismael Garcia in the next parliament. We also know that Ismael, if given a safe seat, will kill himself campaigning in other districts and states.

Carabobo of course has one for PV. I did not put Carabobo as two safe seats as I did for Miranda and Zulia because the arrogance of PV in 2008 has allowed for chavismo to gain in strength and take Valencia mayor's office. However a unified ticket could allow for an extra seat. That one should be given to a local personality and not to any party in particular. Maybe a journalist or a campus dean, but to a personality, something that the voter of Carabobo could be sensitive too compared to he imposed names sure to come from Caracas for the PSUV candidates.

Caracas is the same problem as Carabobo because of the extreme polarization and because the obvious strategy of the government to favor the popular districts of Caracas and punish those of Miranda who voted against Chavez. However there is a possibility of a second seat to be gained there and it should be either given to ABP, Ledezma's group, or to a personality like the rector of the UCV (if she lives in Caracas). The top of the ticket is given to UNT to satisfy their need to expand outside of Zulia and because they do have feisty candidates there such a William Ojeda.

Miranda is an easy case: PJ and Copei. AD should be talked out of Caracas metro area and compensated with seats elsewhere. Though maybe Copei and AD should be left to sort their allocation between themselves alone. We also get here a top seat for Julio Borges who needs a safe seat to campaign elsewhere in Venezuela.

Finally Vargas, where the opposition has little chance. Maybe a local personality could be found to try to wrestle the second position of the list.

Zulia

No problem here. The UNT stronghold has a good chance to carry 2 seats. Here UNT should understand that it must allow PJ to enter Zulia, one of the reasons I give UNT the Caracas safe seat. A UNT PJ ticket is a sure winner in Zulia, in particular if 2 or 3 districts are given to other folks besides UNT or PJ. It would be a test of UNT commitment to plurality.

The South

Amazonas has an off chance to give a seat to AD. Delta Amacuro could give one to the opposition if the candidate is enough on the left of the coalition; thus it would be a good place to give the MAS its small token seat. Bolivar is the problem as Causa R will demand a seat. But it should be punished along PJ and PODEMOS for their division in 2008 which cost the governor's office. All should run in primaries there for the district seats.

On the other hand there is that chavista who is increasingly opposition, Pastora Medina, ex-PPT, who could be given that safe seat and thus drag along a not insignificant section of the chavista vote and create a bad surprise for chavismo in Bolivar. Or Juan Jose Molina of PODEMOS, though I think on his own he should be able to win his primary for a district. Either one should be the safe seat because either one can be used to campaign elsewhere in the country to appeal to the wavering chavista.

The west central region

Pickings are slimmer for the opposition there although in Falcon they are starting to get tired of the Montilla dynasty and Lara is really an anything goes now that Falcon is more and more a free agent. Thus I suggest a Lara personality, preferably a journalists to run there. In Falcon the proximity of Zulia makes the UNT the natural choice and in Yaracuy Convergencia should be given the safe seat for one single reason: the opposition has so destroyed itself in 2008 in my home state that the only cold embers to be found are in Convergencia. They are the only ones that have an idea on how a campaign should be run in the state. But if there is a state where a primary vote could revive the opposition it is Yaracuy!

The Andes

Tachira is easy enough: Copei has the governor. The Merida safe seat should not be given to any political party because all of them made their utmost to sabotage the 2008 result in a state that was almost a shoo in for the opposition. I propose that a representative from the student movement gets the safe seat there. Or a primary, perhaps the only case where a primary for a list seat would be justified.

Trujillo is almost a sure loss. I can only see some untainted local personality having a shot at the second finish in the list vote.

Oriente

This region is a little bit more complex because over time each state has pulled considerably apart from the historical regional trend. Because there is a need to compensate AD from giving up seats in Caracas and Zulia, it should be given a chance to recover its old stomping grounds where it still has a few semi interesting politicians left. Thus Monagas and Anzoategui seats should go to AD.

Podemos controlled Sucre for many years and we need them to beat Chavez. Sucre should be given to the ex mayor of Carupano or to whomever Podemos decides.

Finally Margarita. There is a chance there that all the seats go to the opposition but there is also a governor that is quite stubborn. Lets convince him to allow primaries for the districts by giving him the list safe seat, and even the second position if he wants.

The llanos

We finish with the region where chavismo has the most chance to pick up everything except a couple of list seats. Thus the obvious choice in Barinas is to give the nod to the dissident chavista who has a personal feud with the Chavez famiglia. He might be a mafiosi himself but it takes one to beat one.....

In Apure AD has a chance, though I am skeptic. In Guarico the judicial pursuits against the Manuitt famiglia leaves the opposition, very weak there, with little choice but to name some local personality.

In Cojedes and Portuguesa chavismo should get the 4 seats and only an AD in Cojedes or a MAS celebrity in Portuguesa have a weak chance to get the second list seat.

Conclusion

The cheating is absolutely clear and thus it is absolutely clear that the opposition needs unity and internal generosity to get seats. In the list seats it really cannot expect more than 26 seats even with more than 50% nationwide vote. This is due to the fact that in some small states chavismo can pick up all the list seats without too much trouble (Portuguesa, Cojedes, Guarico, Apure, Amazonas, Trujillo, Monagas and Delta Amacuro).

In other words the eventual victory of the opposition will come from the district vote of the Urban States: Caracas, Miranda, Aragua, Carabobo, Zulia and the Andes as Oriente might be a toss up tending toward chavismo. Thus there is no point in wasting much "nominating energy" on the list seats nomination. They should be used to place the leader of the campaign, to get safe seats for them and spend time campaigning across all of their states to help the district candidates.

In addition, considering that we do not know when the final gerrymandering of districts will come, the sooner the list seats are nominated the sooner they can start the campaign. The longer the field is left open to chavismo, the more difficult it will be to gain back the wasted time, no matter how badly the economy might tank, electricity outages get worse, etc, etc...

-The end-

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