At the debate tonight what mattered the most was the leaving line of Leopoldo Lopez as to a forthcoming joint announcement with Capriles next day. In fact, after watching it live, really, Miguel and I did hang out for a while and all candidates did, except Leopoldo who was nowhere to be found, with few of his supporters around except for his mother that made a point to go and give Capriles a hug (well, we thought it was Leopoldo's mother anyway). There is no need to treat this as some form of running away, but simply something big is planned tomorrow and the less people had access to LL and his close circle, the less possibility of a leak as to the details.
It would be unbecoming, so to speak, to speculate widely as to the announcement tomorrow but tonight we can certainly piece up a few things. Readers of this blog should not be too surprised after all: the Maria Corina Machado bout with Chavez 10 days ago has changed the dynamics of the campaign (here and here). Not that Henrique Capriles Radonski is threatened decisively but now positions 2, 3 and 4 are up for grabs and wide open for Pablo Perez, LL and MCM, without discounting that after tonight's performance HCR is not going to go up in polls and could well be in trouble by February 12. Let's face it, if Capriles were so sure of winning, why would he accept a pact with Leopoldo at this late in the game?
So, what gives?
LL has been done in by the non committal performance of the judicial system that let's in place a possible impeachment where he to win. People like me know full well that chavismo will not dare to refuse a victorious LL to take office, but the hoi polloi does not understand those subtleties and actually thing that Chavez would get away with what would be a coup d'etat unacceptable for his colleagues. Simply put, for all his best effort, his dynamic campaign, LL had to spend a debilitating precious time to convince people of that without really succeeding.
But LL has long term plans. In fact of the 6 candidates they are only three that have the potential to become statesmen some day, LL, MCM and Arria. But for LL anything short of a 2nd place or excellent third place is not acceptable for his future career. And MCM stunt makes that there is no poll able to measure such a shifting landscape in the next two weeks before February 12. A decision of sorts had to be made so as not to risk and undeserved embarrassment.
HCR had problems of his own. He might be leading but it seems that this lead has stopped growing long ago (maybe shrinking some as no one is publishing any poll). In fact debates et al, have shown his limitations even though his qualities were still apparent. Probably his own campaign staff agrees with me that MCM may take more votes from his base than he could care to admit. And finally, the Unidad having refused to allow for a second round balloting, the perspective of winning with as little as a 35% of the vote does not yield a strong candidate to counter Chavez.
An alliance between the 25% certain of HCR and the 10% certain of LL gives a 35% certain that is easier to transform into a convincing 51% on February 12. Simple mathematics, you see....
But it is also more than mere mathematics: worrying about a mandate election is the sure sign of a maturing opposition that starts to understand truly the nature of the challenge next year if it wins. And there is also the possibility to try the all new front. See, LL and HCR appeared in politics AFTER Chavez and 4th republic charges cannot be lobbed at them. The more so with a PODEMOS and PPT caution. Whereas PP is burdened with the Maracaibo mafia, and the AD one and the COPEI one...... In fact, as one of my contacts suggested, there may have been also into consideration that paying the departure of Chavez with the return of AD and COPEI was not acceptable.....
I will stop here because anything else without knowledge of the details of the agreement would start now to be the domain of astrologers. More tomorrow.
PS: as I finish this I see Miguel's post on this evening. I agree with all what he said except that I would have put LL on top with a very close second for MCM. For more details on my differences with Miguel you can read my Twitter timeline of tonight. And as Miguel does, I apologize that we were not readier to face technology challenges, trusting Globovision and the UNIMET to supply better access to technology.