Certainly Primero Justicia is arguably the biggest political party of Venezuela. But a closer look at the results of February 12 gives a rather nuanced story. It seems that the votes of Capriles were more his votes than those of PJ (not surprising, fortunately) but also that PJ is still having more trouble than what one may think at spreading out of its Caracas area bastion.
Capriles votes were his (and only his?)
The best evidence of Capriles vote not been enough for coattails is found in Anzoategui race for governor where Barreto Sira won over the Capriles supported PODEMOS Paraqueima (note that PJ had few candidates of its own in Anzoategui). Ernesto Paraqueima got 61K votes while Capriles carried the state with 106K. a dramatic gap if you ask me. Indeed a lot of explanations may be offered but the fact of the matter is that the winner, Barreto Sira, in spite of not being supported by Capriles, of being old AD, of supporting Perez (who got only 43K) did win his own race with almost as many votes as Capriles, 98K, double than Perez who was supposed to do good in that state of AD tradition.
Times have changed in Anzoategui, a state now up for grabs, just in case Barreto starts thinking he owns the joint. After all he only needs to look at the local district election to realize that PJ did much better than AD, carrying with its associates at least 7 districts to the 6 districts of AD and associates. Never mind the 2 that went for Voluntad Popular.
Another example not as clear but still telling is Carabobo. There Capriles carried the state with almost 78% of the vote. And yet, of the 4 districts that were on the table PJ managed to carry only 2 of them with slender relative majorities of 28 and 35% whereas PVZL carried the third one with 63% and Ad the 4th one with 40%.
PJ starts leaving the Caracas area but with trouble
From the above you certainly did get the idea that PJ has been picking up districts even if it did not do as well as Capriles. That is, the progress of PJ is undeniable and I do not mean to tarnish it. My point is that it is not as big as one would deduce from the mere Capriles numbers (PODEMOS by the way did not benefit much of Capriles numbers, losing its biggest prize, Anzoategui and barely making it in the second prize of Caracas).
The only state governor candidate that PJ can claim, and brilliantly at that, is Aragua, which is still next door to Caracas. There Richard Mardo, who was denied probably through electoral fraud the district of Maracay in 2008, kept working hard, becoming its representative in 2010 and is now the undisputed governor candidate with a stunning 88% of the tally! Capriles "only" got 76% in Aragua...... however in Aragua those are Mardo votes and not necessarily those of PJ which gets only a victory in one of the mayoral districts. So yes, having the possible next governor of Aragua will help PJ in the future but the conquest of Aragua is far from a done deal for PJ. After all we can call Mardo the representative of the left wing of PJ, the more hands on, close to "el pueblo" and that would explain why Mardo has made such an impact in that state, though he still needs to beat the chavista machinery in December, another deal far from done. Still, for chavismo the stunning victory of Mardo against the heir of the Didalco machine (with an embarrassing paltry 10%) has to be worrisome.
Other apparent victories of PJ are not so. For example in Falcon PJ claims to have gotten the nod, but the winner there is a certain Graterol who has a life long allegiance to COPEI only recently passed to PJ. Interestingly it is a case where maybe Graterol had better coattails than Capriles who did one of his worst scores in Falcon with a mere 55%: Graterol did get 60%! Still, PJ cannot complain, it got 4 nods in Falcon including the all important district of Punto Fijo Caribudana, thus doing better than in Aragua. For the History, COPEI did run a third candidate in Falcon which for some reason it considers its land. That candidate that shall remain nameless got a paltry 14% which tells us that Graterol made the right move. In other words Falcon is also the poster state on how PJ slowly but surely will absorb what COPEI was.
Another apparent victory of PJ is in Cojedes, which is in my book an embarrassing victory. Alberto Galindez, former AD governor of Cojedes, who has been trying to retake the state 4 times and failed four times decided to switch to PJ and now won the primary with a stunning and undeserved 78%. Capriles, by the way, got only 64% which may mean that after 12 years of awful chavista governors the days of Galindez may suddenly look "halcyoner" than they were. In fact, when you look at the local districts it seems that Galindez had zero coattails since PJ got the nod in only 2 of the 9 districts at play whereas AD did get 4 even though their candidate got only a quarter of the votes Galindez got.
Miranda, the missed sweep
To finish this overlook at PJ I cannot fail to focus on Miranda state, its own base, which I had thought would be a clean sweep for PJ. It was not. An excellent result for "el trabuco" (a slogan that I never quite figured) but not the expected one. True, the Caracas area was swept with Baruta, Sucre, El Hatillo and Chacao almost certain PJ mayors (though El Hatillo must be run again as the PJ winner died in post electoral surgery). But outside PJ did encounter the occasional, and even surprising, defeat.
The big fail was the mayor of Los Salias, running for reelection and who came a lousy third, at 17%. We can safely call this the end of the political career of Ovidio Lozada. And he probably contributed unwillingly to the defeat next door in Carrizales where PJ got second place, leaving the winner to also an UNT. The Zulia party probably cannot believe its good luck in picking up 3 of the Miranda districts and possibly yet a 4th one since the Guaicaipuro vote must be run again in the area of Paracotos! I do not know if it compensates for the unfair loss of Baruta but it is still a decent consolation prize. The more humiliating for PJ that it did not pick a single district in Zulia, that I know of.
It should be noted that AD did manage to pick 2 seats in Miranda and Copei 1. This indicates that the transfer of AD is going to UNT, just as Copei is being absorbed by PJ, whether people like it.....
Conclusions on PJ future
It is starting well and strong but it is still too much of a Caracas party. It also tends to make bad alliances. If on occasion they may look as offering rewards (Cojedes) sometimes the lack of PJ organization on the ground make them tie the knot with totally unsuitable people which leave PJ totally humiliated. I will remind folks the Yaracuy results where Capriles did get 60% but where the PJ candidates for governor and San Felipe mayor got a trashing of 15 and 34% respectively. The San Felipe case is particularly telling because the winner was a newcomer for Convergencia, Jose de la Cruz, who managed to defeat the old hand of San Felipe town hall, Miguel Ponente now PJ, by 4% (the end result is probably going to be 7 districts for Convergencia and 3 for PJ).
In this respect the national gains of PJ might look spectacular compared to those of Voluntad Popular (see previous post of this series) but they might not be as solid as those of VP. Then again, Venezuela been the land of lambucios, a few years of a Capriles presidency and even chavistas will pretend that they were always with PJ.....