We are here in more or less chavista territory although there is significant trouble in Lara. Thus we will start by Yaracuy, my home state, which can be dealt with rather fast. Then we will move to Falcon which can be dealt almost as fast and then to Lara which is another story together. At the end I will have enough predictions added up to be able to put up the first half moon putative composition of the next National Assembly.
My home state is, as expected when I commented on it last 2008, paying a dear price for the ambitions of its local leaders who made them run divided and thus lost EVERYTHING. Indeed, in 2008 there were still about 4 town halls in the hands of Convergencia. But the stubbornness of Lapi in exile in Peru and running anyway, and the fishing in trouble waters of Primero Justicia caused a division. As a result even the Independencia town hall of rather decent mayor Parra was lost.
Now Lapi will remain in exile until Chavez leaves office, and I will not feel sorry as he brought it upon himself. Capdevielle, the ex mayor of Cocorote who thought he had the charisma to take over the state is gone from politics, and opened an Italian restaurant in San Felipe. Convergencia who was unable to force Lapi to compromise, is in shambles, etc, etc... And to make things worse no one has been able to try to make a go for the state, not even Voluntad Popular. If you remember when I covered their launch last December, there was only one state missing: Yaracuy. So we are left again with the embers of Convergencia who runs the only credible shot at Yaracuy district 2, Rafael Parra Barrios, the unfortunate mayor of Independencia who is now finally supported by Primero Justicia. With my calculation for 2010 he has a fair shot, needing a mere 3,000 votes to make up, and PPT is also running a candidate while the chavista one in that district is nothing worth writing home about.
I vote in San Felipe, district 3, and in normal days this was a shoo in for the opposition. But times have changed. Having no administrative base the local candidate is a journalist that must scrap out his campaign with his nails. In addition he has to campaign in the Nirgua municipality who has gone chavista slowly but surely to the point of having abandoned La Carolina when the INTI went to take it over. Well, maybe they did not support it but the regime has made a wonderful job at neutering political life in Nirgua which used to be a little bit more outspoken than it is today. The only redeeming feature I see in that race is that the PSUV candidate, Carlos Gamarra, is a failed candidate for San Felipe mayor and thus probaly not a great one in Nirgua either. Whatever it is I consider that Antonio Dyurich has an uphill battle this time around. As for district 1, the opposition is running a retired military and thus I see no hope whatsoever to take it as Yaritagua has become quite chavista. For the list vote, I doubt that chavismo is going to be able to double the opposition so at least there Convergencia will get a seat, for imprisoned ex mayor of Peña.
The mystery factor in all of this is that the current governor, Leon, is better when compared to the disaster that was his predecessor. Jimenez was elected accidentally in the pro Chavez wave of 2004. He should have never been a candidate having been a very failed mayor of Independencia. Sure enough he did not finish his term as he presided over such a corruption that chavismo itself had to remove him form office. Yet, he walks the streets free, awaiting an unlikely trial, while Lapi is in exile for much, much less than what Jimenez did. Leon is not great, he is a radical, but the state looks a little bit better than what it looked two years ago. For a hard core chavista he is rather educated and knows how to behave. As a mater of fact he has retaken the colors of Yaracuy, red, white and blue, just giving a little bit more figuration to the red than to the other colors. I appreciate that propaganda under Julio Leon is not as much "in your face" as it was under Jimenez, who was a totally uncouth lout. Yet, the state is certainly not as well managed as when Lapi was in charge: Lapi was considered the most effective governor of the country and as such was a permanent target of chavismo from the very start. The question here is do people remember how things run during the Lapi years, even at the level of social programs which were all inclusive, or do they prefer today's programs that give obscene priority to those who support Chavez.
Total Yaracuy: PSUV 2, Leaning PSUV 1, Convergencia 1,Leaning Opposition 1. (in 2000, the five seats went opposition).
That state has the particularity of having become hereditary as the wive of former governor Montilla has succeded him, though under her maiden name, Lugo. Thus we have now 10 years of family personalised rule and the question here is whether this is finally going to affect the vote. No to mention that if I am able to recognize that Yaracuy's Leon is not doing too bad of a job, I have not heard anything good coming from Falcon governor Estella Lugo de Montilla, she of the more than likely redone boobs (not that I judge, but she is not afraid to put them in value to gain male votes, so fair is fair).
Falcon used to be Copei territory but that was a life time ago. It went as easily chavista as the AD states did. In addition during the PDVSA strike, district 2 which holds some of the alrgest refineries in the world was a battle field of sorts. As such thousand of PDVSA workers were replaced by even more thousands of chavista opportunists changing thus significantly the political make up of district 2 that should remain in the hands of chavismo without major problem.
But Falcon has also been one of the states more hard hit by electricity outages, to the point that the shopping zone of Paraguana now has individual electricity generators at their door steps. With electricity shortages come problems for the tourism industry reasonably important in that state, and of course water problems, food shortages and the like. Falcon is clearly a state ripe to start its drift away from chavismo, though for next month it will be partial.
The best shot for the opposition is district 3, the one of Coro, the state capital and of the wild areas of Paraguana. There my calculations make it already even for both sides so I am going to risk it an call that district for Goyo Graterol of Copei. Yet, there is a catch. If Melvin Lopez is a particularly lousy PSUV candidate (he is a military pal of Chavez) the district also is running for the list vote and for the PPT Yoel Acosta who was one of the coup-mongers of 1992, long ago distanced from Chavez. how much will he take away for the lcoal PPT remains to be seen. It is to be noted that the district voted NO in 2007 and barely SI in 2009 referenda.
District 1 is easy to call: a poor, remote,, mountainous rural district that depends too much on chavista Misiones. Chavismo will have no problem there. The opposition fielded the unlikely name of Elisanower Depool of Podemos. He has 384 friends in facebook, about as much info as I could find on him.
The last district is district 4 and there the opposition is running under a PJ candidate. The district is interesting because it combines poor rural areas, not so poor rural areas and the tourism area of Tucacas, which is an opposition area (they know who they live of). Unfortunately it also has a little bit of the Moron area radical chavismo. Alvaro Yanez does not display his PJ connection on face book, but he has 514 friends... however we should not dismiss him outright becasue he is known locally, was at some municipal council and owns some small radio stations.
The real interesting contest here, after all, is going to be the List vote. There are only two seats to give but the PPT with Yoel Acosta might have a shot, though I doubt it. So for the time being I am going to say that both PSUV and Opposition are leaning there. The opposition fielded Sirit, an AD who failed in his Governor bid last time; but I found an interestingly upbeat interview from him where he claims that the opposition will get 4 of the 6 seats. I think with three they should be happy but what do I know?
Total Falcon: 2 PSUV, 1 Leaning PSUV, 1 Copei, 1 Leaning AD, 1 Leaning PJ
With this state we come to a most interesting race: a major dispute between chavismo which can have important repercussions for the future of the movement. Until now all dissidence have floundered as none found a way to survive the cursing by Chavez. But this time around, local conditions are signficant enough that for the first time there is a real possibility that chavismo will lose.
In short, Henri falcon was the relatively successful mayor of Barquisimeto (today's gerrymandered into districts 1 and 3), certainly by far the best chavista mayor in the country. Being one of the few chavistas that managed to have a personal appeal and following implied that chavismo had to bar him from running for governor when he could not run anymore for Barquisimeto. Chavismo can allow only one beloved leader, you know.... But when he threatened to run anyway, Chavez had to allow it. But the writing was henceforth on the wall.
The interesting detail is that Amalia Saez, the picked up heir of Falcon for Barquisimeto, betrayed him as soon as she could. A state of civil war happened within chavismo until it was not possible to hide it anymore and Falcon left the PSUV to take over the PPT, complaining that there was no democracy inside the PSUV and that as a governor of Lara, one of the biggest states of Venezuela, it had been years he was able to have a meeting with Chavez to expose his plans for the state. Confirming to us what we already knew, that Chavez cares little for real policies, only for politics and empty promises.
And then came the Polar affair, the unexpected reaction of the workers that refused to let themselves become nationalized and the support of many in Barquisimeto in spite of the best efforts of Amalia to portray them as bourgeois traitors. Falcon now is accused to be on the payroll of Polar just as I have been accused to be on the pay roll of the NED, the do-it-all accusation of chavismo against anyone they do not like. But I digress.
The fact of the matter is that Lara is now very complex:
1) part of the huge majority of Falcon in 2008 was due to opposition cross voting who chose him as a lesser evil. How many of them will remain with Falcon?
2) if Lara was a chavista land from the start (it was AD, then it was MAS now PSUV or does anyone believes that PSUV came from spontaneous generation?), Lara has also always been kind of a maverick area electing some notable Copei in its heyday.
3) how much of the Falcon vote in 2008 is really a Falcon vote and can be thus transferred to the PPT?
4) Does the Falcon vote translate well in Peoria, oops, I mean Carora?
I had to make different choices in Lara for my calculations. The governor vote there does not make any sense anymore, except to guess what the PPT may take away from PSUV. Instead I looked at the mayoral votes and list votes for state legislators (more work for me) which are a better indication of what the real opposition strength is. One example of what I got is the frame below which is the specific result of Iribarren district, properly most of the city of Barquisimeto.
|The results of Iribarren in 2008 regional elections, round numbers|
The cross over vote was huge. Not only Saez could not capitalize fully on Falcon coattails, she lost 52,000 votes. The opposition gained most of them with Ramos who got 48,000 more than the governors added up!
At the legislative vote there were a whole bunch of list, but the PSUV fell down a FURTHER 40,000 vote while the addition of the miscellaneous got 131,000, probably 140,000 if I add all the little ones that got 2,000 or less.
Thus any prediction I make on Lara with the rule I set for myself of an across the board 5 to 10% plus or minus will not work here.
The PSUV and Chavez know how to read numbers and if in 2008, with a Chavez still awash in cash, the PSUV could not rally its base as it should have you can imagine that today it is going to be even more difficult. What to do? Very simple, get the two least chavista districts of Iribarren away and give them to next door district and call it quits.
The gerrymandering trick in Lara was to take two parishes of Iribarren, Catedral and Santa Rosa, and move them together with opposition friendly Palavecino and chavista friendly, but small, Simon Planas municipalities. That way the new district 3 elected 2 representatives for the opposition but chavismo was sure to retain three from Iribarren. Roughly the 2008 result in Iribarren, now district 1, would be 148000 -25000 = 123,000 while the opposition woudl get 131000 - 34,000 = 97,000. Clearly the comfort zone for chavismo increases.
Except that they counted with Falcon allying hismelf openly with the opposition. Instead Falcon decided to go solo in Lara with the PPT and all bets are off. As such it seems to me that district 3 will go with two seats for the opposition while Iribarren, district 1, could be too close to call for either side. But Amalia Saez screwed up badly with Polar and I suspect that Iribarren is capable to do once again a major cross voting to ensure that the PPT and Falcon carry its three seats and not the messed regional PSUV. So I am taking a risk and right now go ahead and give it to PPT becasue the 97,000 votes of the opposition were simply too fractionated to take them as a block that could benefit from the chavismo division (how many of these 97,000 were already Falcon 'only'?).
Thus we are left with the last district of Lara, district 2. This is the Carora district of old cultural tradition, and other assorted rural areas of Lara. One of the largest districts in the country (because of its desertic nature and thus lower population density) it shows pockets of deep chavismo (Urdaneta) but also pockets of dissident chavismo (Jimenez). A rough estimate based on mayors votes for that district in 2008 gives me solid PSUV 93,000, not so solid PSUV (and probable PPT?) 42,000 and opposition 59,000. That one is thus out of the picture as in that area, like in neighboring district 1 of Falcon, depends too much on Misiones and I doubt that the opposition will be able to gain much more than a 10 %, leaving it still very far. The question that remains is whether district 2 is able of as much cross over as Iribarren (not very significant as the opposition vote is weak to begin with) and whether that 42,000 potential can coalesce around the PPT, bringing enough of the PSUV "solid" who was solid only because there was simply no other electoral option (the PSUV was still reasonably united in 2008 except for Jimenez and Moran). I think I will go on PSUV here as too many mayors are working with the PSUV campaign.
The list vote is not easy either as any one of the three could pick up one of the two seats at stake. I think that I can call one for the opposition which should come at least in second position. Thus Alfredo Ramos of Causa R who did a decent job in 2008 running for Barquisimeto mayor should get it. The other one I am leaving it too close to call between the PPT and PSUV. True, Chavez sent his ex-governor Luis Reyes for that seat but let's face it, he was a lousy governor and is perceived as a mean saboteur of Henri Falcon rule. A punishment vote is not to be ruled out by PSUV who might do the unthinkable and cross over to Ramos or the PPT just on that list vote.
Total Lara: 2 PSUV, 3 PPT, 1 too close to call, 1 AD, 1CausaR, 1 independent
Note: there is always the possibility of a last minute agreement between the PPT and the opposition. For example I am sure that Lara will have some opinion poll by early September. If chavismo PSUV is still too threatening we could have all sorts of arrangements possibel, such an indirect support of Falcon for oppo candidates in district 3 and an indirect oppo support for Falcon in the other two districts, taking away the two seats of district 2.
Right now I doubt this will happen as the opposition is going up in polls and sees no reason to risk losing it all in Lara when Falcon and the PPT do not seem to be as strong as once expected. The opposition would demand a last minute formal agreement and let the chips fall. A recent "poll" was released by the Falcon people where they woudl be taking 8 out of the 9 seats. Even if Falcon is not a red blooded chavista anymore, I think that the habit of publishing mickey mouse polls is still too ingrained.... That poll smacks to me of trying to discourage the oppo vote becasue the PPT is sensing that it is not biting as deep inside chavismo as it hoped it would.
FIRST HALF MOON GRAPHIC!!!!
|Caracas, Vargas, Miranda, Lara, Yaracuy, Falcon, August 24 2010|
47 seats "assigned" so far. I am cheating by including one PODEMOS which is not yet the case. The reason is that I wanted to set my Excel graph format and if I add PODEMOS later I will have to redo most of the formatting which is a pain in the you know what. I chose such weird display becasue it is a way to establish that the new assembly, even if the PSUV loses the majority, will be quite an exotic patchwork and thus will have problems in keeping up a untied front against Chavez. That is, even if the assembly gets an unlikely 60% opposition seats, a united PSUV will still be the largest group by far.