This state is the easiest one to analyze in that area. A small state it sends four representatives, two through list vote and two single district. If you remember the inequities of the Venezuelan system, there are single districts which can have up to three representatives elected through 3 votes (1). That is, if you organize your electors well enough and the opposing side runs divided you can get 100% of the seats with as little as 40% of the vote. This system was used in the US South pre voting rights era to concentrate black vote and favor white vote. In chavista Venezuela it is used to make sure that chavismo does not need 50% of the vote to obtain up to 60% of the seats. In short, it is possible for chavismo to get ALL seats in Vargas as long as the PSUV gets twice the votes of the opposition. Fortunately this will not happen and the opposition will get one List seat.
Unfortunately the opposition has almost zero chance to get better than one seat because Vargas is a wretched state. Even though the misrule of Chavez there is more blatant than anywhere else, it seems that the masochist population of Vargas wants more and more of it. How can that be possible?
First, Vargas is perhaps the state most controlled economy in Venezuela. That is, besides the public administration the main employers of Vargas are the utilities companies, the airport and La Guaria harbor, all fallen under absolute state control under Chavez. The private business is limited to a very few companies and to commerce and tourism, a tourism that never got back on track after 1999. In other words it is safe to say that at the very least half of the homes in Vargas depend from a government job. That creates clearly a blackmailing situation, the more so when the rather low educational level of the state allows such canards as the loss of secret voting to be credible.
In addition some areas of Vargas were/are the Caracas lumpen residence, the truly forgotten pariahs of the pre Chavez areas. For people living in, say, the old Caracas to the sea road, the election of Chavez was truly the first time that they felt they existed politically. Even if chavismo has done little for them, has taken them for granted, they will still stick to Chavez in a Stockholm like syndrome. Because let's face it, since the 1999 catastrophic flood, Vargas has been subjected to other catastrophes such as two truly awful , chavista governors. The current one since 2008 is general Garcia Carneiro, of 2002 save/betray Chavez fame. Rumor has that he really did not want the job, that Chavez forced him to take it, that he is an alcoholic and that if you want or need to talk to him you need to do so before noon.
At least, the particularly incompetent staff that Chavez has placed in there has done enough damage that based on the results form 2008 and later, chavismo will not be able to double the opposition vote.
Total Vargas: 3 PSUV seats and 1 for AD.
The situation here is way different than in Vargas as the state has basically three type of electors.
The Caracas metro area vote in Miranda has long been lost by Chavez. Thus 3 districts are rather safe for the opposition, including district 2 which elects two seats and which is the safest circumscription of any in Venezuela, PSUV or opposition. In district 2 the election WAS the primary and as such the winner, Maria Corina Machado is the candidate that can sleep better at night in Venezuela. The other seat was attributed in a misguided and misplaced effort on the political prisoners of the regime. When eventually they were not allowed to run, a major fight erupted inside the MUD opposition umbrella as to who would replace them. Mendoza, the former governor of Miranda, booted out in 2004 under suspicious electoral manipulations was unjustly barred from running until this year. Now, he pushed his way through and his incontestable knowledge of the state and popularity (I cannot understand it, I do not like the guy myself) forced the MUD to give him the second seat in district 2. A safe one for Mendoza? It runs out it was a good move after all because Mendoza does not need to campaign in his district and he is crisscrossing Miranda state to push forward the other MUD candidates. An obvious strategy that I discussed long ago. His effect could particularly be felt in the Guarenas Guatire and Balovento districts. Not to mention that he has time to work at the general country strategy and can do occasional appearances out of state.
Petare has been carved out of district 3 in one of the most scandalous gerrymandering of the regime. That is, the most anti Chavez area was sent to district 2 and the most pro Chavez area was sent to Guarenas where chavismo has been weakening some. Also there was the hope that Petare who has a majority of popular area (it hosts what is reputed as the biggest slum in Latin America) would be able to be retaken by the regime. I do not think it is going to happen. The reason why Petare went opposition in 2008 (and in 2007 already, and even in 2009) is that its chavista mayor was truly a disaster. The new mayor is Ocariz of Primero Justicia and in spite of all the sabotage that chavismo does against him he is managing to improve things. Imagine if he had the money that his predecessor had, and a more balanced municipal council, what Ocariz could do! And also, Globovision reaches in open signal all of the are so the chavista propaganda does not work there. I think that Petare is a safe seat for the opposition in spite of all the efforts of chavismo.
Even though it is a dormitory of Caracas, I also include district 1 in the Caracas metro area discussion. It includes the state capital Los Teques and its new mayor as of 2008 has been named unofficially by Chavez as his only valid interlocutor for the state since there is no way chavismo will set down with PJ governor Capriles. Also it might be a dormitory but it has some local resources and it is much more upper middle class than the other dormitories that I will discuss next. The thing in that district is that one was expecting that the new mayor of Los Teques would do a better job than what he has done. Besides promoting the construction of a never ending new subway he has wasted his time in useless political diatribe that included even an assault to the governor's house. I suspect that the idiocy of Alirio Mendoza might even allow the opposition to take the Guaicaipuro district in addition of the Los Salias and Carrizal districts that are included in district 1. Thus I open my first "to watch" area: the result of the Guaicaipuro district. A loss by chavismo there would be a sign of things going bad elsewhere, and that would have direct consequences in the List vote for Miranda.
Thus a sweep for the opposition here: 2 UNT, 1 Copei, 2 PJ
The Caracas dormitory districts are another matter. These include the districts in Valles del Tuy (6 and 7) and the Guarenas Guatire district 4. Even though the opposition has been growing some in the Valles del Tuy I do not see these districts going MUD this time around. In 2008 the advantage was almost 2 to1 and even my conditions for evaluating cannot manage to change that, no matter how much campaigning Mendoza does there. The reason is simple: Cua, Charallave, Santa Teresa et al are rather poor districts, with some industrial base and the relative cheapness of the land allowed for massive housing for lower middle class (read: public employees) willing to put up with the horrendous commute to go to Caracas as the price to pay to own a modest home. Chavez certainly did "finish" a commuter railway but it does not work quite well, and its scarce trains are fully jammed with commuters at rush hour. Yet, it is still an improvement from the road option where a traffic jam can keep you locked inside a buseta for hours.
Guarenas and Guatire are however another story. Not only there has no been a commuter rail built, but the locals are getting tired of seeing the first rail pylons built gathering dust, or rusting under the rain while they are stuck in further horrendous traffic on the way to their job in Caracas at 5 AM. Guarenas is a very popular district, the very first dormitory of Caracas, from where the "Caracazo" of 1983 started. As such all governments got afraid of the area and not much was ever done to improve it. But chavismo did a mistake in taking that area for granted. Patience lasts up to a point and already Guatire, of a more significant middle class content, has shown signs that it could go against Chavez (downtown Guatire already went against Chavez in 2007, the municipality remaining chavista for the rural area).
my study on the Cuacaguita vote reveals that even in areas where chavismo should not need to campaign to get at the very least 70% of the vote, it is dropping. In Caucaguita, EVEN in 2009, chavismo went down further, as you can see from the graph I re-post on the right. Of course, Caucaguita (and the other sliced districts should still go Chavez, but that does not mean that district 4 is safe for chavismo.
In fact chavismo has lots of problems there. It fielded, believe it or not, the wife of former governor Diosdado Cabello, who was booted out of the state house in 2008 by the voters. The image of Diosdado is so bad that his wife is running under her maiden name, Contreras! And to add insult to injury, her side kick is the ex mayor of Petare, of terrible reputation..... On the other side the MUD fielded one of its heavy weights, Primero Justicia head, Julio Borges, whose side kick is an energetic Voluntad Popular, Rafael Venegas. The other candidate of the opposition in this district is Gabriel Puerta of Bandera Roja, the most leftist group inside the MUD, and one that never supported Chavez, by the way. In addition this is his political life chance to get something so he certainly has the motivation to go door to door. Borges by the way challenged the PSUV candidate to a debate, a challenge that of course cannot be picked up because all the candidates of the PSUV had positions under Diosdado Cabello misrule and none did anything good worth remembering.... I am not ready to give this district 4 to the opposition yet, however it certainly is not a safe seat for chavismo anymore. The opposition needs to win this district to make it as a majority in the next Assembly, and thus this district is my second bellwether result. A defeat of chavismo there would not only compromise its hold on the Assembly but it would be a personal setback for Diosdado Cabello who is setting his political future on having his people gaining such seats.
2 PSUV seats and 2 PSUV leaning seats.
The rural Miranda, Barlovento, is a single district and the biggest one of the state. And yet it does follow the general political make up of the state since it includes the Brion district, a beach playground for Caracas. Historically it was an AD area (I should know, I spent there most of my childhood holidays). And as such rural AD districts it made an easy conversion to chavismo. Yet, here, the one to watch is the personal imprint of Mendoza who made his name there during the 1999 flooding tragedy when El Guapo dam burst. As such Mendoza survived the 2000 vote but was ousted suspiciously in 2004.
Will district 5 remain chavista this time around? It should as the 2008 vote was clearly more than 3 to 2 for chavismo. But things are changing. Now Mendoza is at the top of the state ticket and has plenty of time to campaign there and the PJ candidate, Omar Guaramato is as African American as they come, and associated with the Capriles administration which has a much better image already than the past Diosdado (Barlovento, under the humid trade winds, was the cacao power house at colonial times and thus is probably the most African American district in Venezuela). Opposite to him there is outgoing representative Modesto Ruiz, and hidden as its side kick Iroshima Bravo who was not able to win outright the PSUV primaries in spite of a certain notoriety in the current Nazional Assembly. They both look pretty tired while Omar, well, he looks new and energetic. I am not ready to even put district 5 on "leaning". Right now it is PSUV but it a district that could hold a pleasant surprise for the opposition, and certainly worth fighting for.
The list vote. Miranda elects 3 representatives through the list vote. As such, the opposition is well placed to pick up 2 of them. Because of the Valle del Tuy PSUV "stronghold", this one will get one seat.
Total Miranda: 4 PSUV, 2 PSUV leaning, 3 UNT. 2 PJ, 1 COPEI
Note on the PPT, former Chavez ally: I will write about the third party spoiler role of the PPT on occasion. My feeling is that outside of Lara the PPT will not amount to much and that when all is said and done they will get at the very most 6 seats. Thus no need to study their effect wherever they dare putting up a candidate. The polarization of the country is going to be unkind to them. People are chavista or anti chavista, and thus I guess the PPT real aim is to start positioning itself for survival in a post Chavez era.
This being said the PPT is a "cadre" party, that is a movement that tends to group more the ideologue professionals and public employees in management than a mass movement. The Chavez administration is full of ex PPT that occupy important positions, starting with a PPT founder, Aristobulo Isturiz, now at the top of the PSUV ticket in Caracas. Thus it can attract a not insignificant number of chavista dissident seats and thus favoring in the end the opposition. That could happen for example in district 4 where even a meager 5% of votes for PPT could be enough to give Borges the little extra push he needs to prevail.
As a rule of thumb I consider that for each vote the PPT will be able to pry form the opposition it will get two from chavismo. But its best source of votes will remain disaffected chavista, NiNi and abstentionists, not enough to ensure outright victories.
And thus we come to Caracas itself. To tell you the truth chavismo has been battered there, and by problems of its own making. The new mayor, Jorge Rodriguez of CNE cheating and harassment fame is not as effective as what people would like him to be. In fact some of his measures leave people perplex, such as removing a PEPSI sign on top of a building or forcing the Sabana Grande stores to remove their signs and to all acquire by force a type of metal door that many consider unsafe and non-protective. This instead of dealing with crime, filling up potholes and what not. In the famous dismissal of Caracas Mayor at Large Ledezma, Chavez invented a new figure to rule over that area under the what can only be qualified as a Gauleiter, Ms. Farias. Besides the opportunity she found in renewed sycophancy, her actions to improve people' lives have been rather underwhelming. People of Libertador cannot fail to see the difference when they cross the midtown "border" at Chacaito and observe on their own that even Petare is improving a little bit!
Certainly the question is what will be the end result of these two years of recent policies. After all former mayor Bernal was a disaster and that did not stopped the fanatic areas to prevail and reelect him, and then elect Rodriguez as the wished for successor by Chavez. Thus the intensive gerrymandering also practiced there to concentrate opposition vote and give up on a couple of districts in the hope of concentrating the chavista vote and save some districts. Will it work? To simplify a little the discussion I will divide Libertador into the popular districts and the very popular districts since only one district sorts of escape the existence of ranchos and derelict neighborhoods where chavismo, we are told, thrives.
The downtown area districts have been going slowly but surely the anti Chavez way. There used to be two districts, 2 and 4, who elected one each. But dropping the list vote from 4 to 3 seats pushed an extra seat in the nominal districts and gave a perfect excuse for some nice gerrymandering. Now, from 6 districts we regress to 5 ones, and two of them will elect two representatives. And now the more favorable to the opposition downtown area is split among 4, FOUR! districts, three of them including a heavy chavista area to dilute the vote. Districts 1 and 3 are those who include the northern part of downtown as the southern part has been diluted elsewhere.
District 3 is now the lone safe district for the opposition and thus the ex prefect of Caracas, unjustly jailed for months during the battle between Ledezma and Chavez, Richard Blanco of ABP is the sure shot (almost 2 to 1 in 2008 results). And yet it might not be such a sure shot because the PPT fielded there one of its most attractive candidates, historian Margarita Lopez Maya, creating perhaps the lone district where a PPT can take away votes from the opposition. She used to be a Chavez supporter but the force of evidence made her eventually change her mind from the days we both figured out at the BBC in 2006. Chavismo there fielded a newcomer, Andreina Tarazona of 22 years old who seems to be thoroughly ideologized. This district is too sophisticated for someone like her. In fact Lopez Maya could take plenty of votes from her. Will she take enough to win? I doubt it but let's wait and see how polls evolve and if a last minute agreement between opposition and PPT makes sure that Tarazona does not go further.
The other still recognizable downtown district is district 2 which has lost La Pastora in exchange of heavy chavista area 23 de Enero. When I do my calculations for that district the 2010 result with the 5% cut is 65000 for chavismo to 53000 for the opposition in spite of the inclusion of 23 de Enero. The first question is how faithful the 23 Enero remains with Chavez. There is a lot of evidence that the people there are getting tired of being held hostage to the red shirted goons that do not let police inside anymore. This the home of notorious gangs such as La Piedrita, an area that figured in the CNN notorious video who made Izarra laugh.
In district 2 chavismo put Robert Serra, the still "student leader" of chavismo whose idiocies have been lovingly recorded in this blog. I wonder whether Robert Serra will actually be liked inside the 23 de Enero as in spite of his chavismo he has a certain escualido feel. After all he is a lawyer from the Jesuit college of Caracas. Could well be that the PPT candidate there could siphon a few votes from Serra. The opposition fielded a certain Antonio Ecarri who is an independent close to PJ (or already PJ? Not clear). He comes from the ONG world, is well known and is one of the few candidates to have a real web page for his campaign which could be of use as even the 23 de Enero has quite a lot of computers installed. Anyone can sense the cultural and intellectual difference between Serra and Ecarri. A plus or a minus, I will not judge, but you can read Ecarri CV, something else than Serra's one. Thus I allow myself to put this district in the "too close to call" list. Indeed, a defeat there for chavismo, in the district where Chavez vote, would be a humiliation. But in all fairness a defeat there would not be as "trend setting" for the rest of the country as the two bellwether that I have already picked in Miranda. After all, even if small, district 2 is too varied, too Caracas to be a reliable indicator.
1 ABP and 1 too close to call.
The 'not downtown' districts are another story. I call them not downtown because they include industrial, residential , military and even sort of rural areas (Macarao and El Junquito). There things are much tougher for the opposition as we start entering in the roughs ranchos (slums/favelhas) of Antimano, Macarao or Gramoven which looks a lot like the ones of Vargas. It is nearly impossible to judge the extent of the disaffection though considering that Chavez protected Caracas from electric rationing we can be pretty sure that it was because of reports form that area about the political costs he would suffer. If Pudreval might not be the most pressing issue in these areas crime, the current hot topic issue, is the main one as most killed in a week end come from one of these three districts.
District one is one of these horrors of gerrymandering when semi rural EL Junquito was put with super crowded Catia and wretched Gramoven (though there is a case to be made that the road to El Junquito settlement is equally wretched as Gramoven, though in a much smaller scale). As such chavismo put two seat there (it could have split into two easily) and fielded two of its tenors: former Libertador mayors Bernal and Isturiz. I kid you not, two former mayors, one a total failure and the other one not a success as he was beaten by Ledezma in his reelection bid in 1996. Yet this is what chavismo is left with. The opposition had the merit of holding primaries there and as such the winners were an activist of Primero Justicia, former basketball star, Ivan Olivares, who has made a name of himself as a community activist. The other nominee was ex PPT leader Pablo Medina (Isturiz is also an ex-PPT). But Medina broke early with Chavez whereas Isturiz semi break up became eventually a slavish subservience to Chavez. Bernal is just a thug who created his political base out of clientele practices and thuggery when he was mayor. Bernal is a potential killer but someone that is not in the trust of Chavez, but he needs him for his dirty work. It is an uphill battle there for Medina and Olivares, but they do have a trump card: they advocate for Catia to become an independent municipality, separate from Libertador. Neither Isturiz nor Bernal can hold a credible claim to this widespread feeling in Catia as they refused to work for the splitting of Libertador when they were mayors.
I discuss district 5 next because it is a little bit like district 1 in its prospect. In both cases chavismo is clearly ahead but in both cases the opposition candidates are better than the worn out chavista ones. I suspect that the opposition should be able to take one of them, district 5 being the more likely as the 2007 referendum chavista vote did not make it there. Also my calculations show that in district 5 the opposition needs to gain 20 000 votes whereas it needs 40 000 votes in district 1.
The opposition fields there two very articulate candidates, one of them being former Bolivar representative Juan Jose Molina who has been an indestructible rock of anti totalitarian tendency at the Nazional Assembly. He is well known, no matter what, and probably that he is only recently a local will not be held against him. The other one is actually more interesting for his side kick, Gustavo Rojas of PJ, who is a real economy professor something in short supply in the current regime. Apparently he is campaigning as if he were on the top of the ticket.
On the other hand chavismo fielded Dario Vivas, one of the most unpleasant and radical old geezers. But exactly the type that Chavez needs, the kind that votes yes to a law proposal coming from Miraflores Palace without even knowing its title. But there is an additional catch here is that the PPT candidate is Andrea Tavares, a well known and likable activist of Caracas and she could well sink Dario Vivas hopes to renew his paycheck. After all she failed badly in her bid to become Libertador Mayor but this type of election is much closer to what she is made for.
The last district of this long post is district 4. Ramon Lopez is the UNT candidate there and considering that his Facebook page has barely 400 friends I am not very optimist. In fact, Jesus Faria the PSUV candidate might be radical (he is the son of a Communist Party founder) but he is also somewhat appealing, at least compared tot he other PSUV candidates for the surrounding districts. And he was a Chavez minister so he probably gave away stuff to the area inhabitants to prepare his run. The big problem for the opposition in this district is the plain dichotomy between the low middle class high rises of El Valle and Coche surrounded by the ranchos in the hills behind. My calculations give a 10 000 votes gap to bridge for the opposition but I am not too sure that the current candidate can do it, though the under siege mental situation of Coche and El Valle might bring a surprise.
The last item is the list vote in Libertador which could be the major weapon of the opposition. Here this one fielded Stalin Gonzalez who run a surprising strong second in 2008 in front of Jorge Rodriguez in spite of his youth and inexperience. Now, more seasoned, Stalin Rodriguez is the candidate at large for Libertador and as such his support could make the difference in districts as close as the 4 and 5. On the list vote PSUV put three women that cannot be bothered much with campaigning assuming that they are in a safe seat: Nazional Assembly president Cilia Flores and Tania Vivas of VTV pseudo journalism. While Stalin hits the streets, Cilia and Tania must go to their hair do appointments that their current jobs require.
Unfortunately these two bitches (sorry, no other word to describe them comes to mind) will probably be elected anyway, along Stalin, as I do not think the opposition is able to overcome this time around in Libertador. Still, call me crazy but I am putting Tania seat on too close to call as there is a distinct possibility of a split vote as the second in the opposition list, Dinorah Figuera, is an appealing PJ female candidate who does not bother as much with hair do appointments.
Libertador has suffered a lot in the last two years and it is quite possible that the abuse of power might have alienated more people than what polls reveal. A surprise is not out of question and definitely a victory for the opposition in Libertador would go a long, a very long way to speed up Chavez demise, EVEN if he were to retain control of the Assembly. Losing control of Caracas has always historically marked the beginning of a political transition and there is no reason why this would be different this time around, if the opposition wins. Or why else did you think that Chavez exempted Caracas of electricity cuts this year and why people go to Caracas to buy Harina PAN that they cannot find in the provinces?
Total Libertador: 2 PSUV, 1 ABP, 1UNT, 2 too close to call, 2 leaning PSUV, 2 leaning opposition
1) Previous posts addressing electoral issues mentioned here
The List Vote
The District vote