This is, I hope, the one before last of this series. After having looked at some of the details that allow us to understand the enormity of what happened last October 7, we are, I hope, more prepared to consider the bigger picture. I know, it is kind of taking things in reverse order, but sometimes it pays to look at details from the periphery before tacking the big problem. I did it all the time when I used to be a researcher.
The main result
True, if Venezuela were a democracy the result would have been a devastating blow for the opposition after 14 years of rule by the same party. But this is not a democracy, it has not been since 2007, and became a dictatorship officially in 2010.
The official tally this morning is STILL the same one as last Thursday with 98,1% of the votes counted. Embassies were we know Capriles got 61K votes are not included. Of course they are not because if we included them Chavez could drop just below 55% and that is not acceptable........ See, in an autocracy all that matters are perceptions.
Thus we must say that with less than 55% the autocrat is not quite pleased Oh sure! He beams, when he appears in public. But Chavez knows that he rules a plebiscite system and that such a system needs, say, 60% of the vote anytime the head honcho is on the ballot. A plebiscite is not a referendum: a referendum asks a question, a plebiscite merely seeks a ratification. Thus elections are conceived as a plebiscite over the ruler and to justify such an authoritarian rule it is essential to crush the opposition, each and every time. That is why any score less than 60% shows a weakening of the regime. By all means falling from 62,84% to what should say 54, XX% can only be read negatively.
The first successful plebiscite system in history, successful in that it lasted for 18 years with real accomplishments, is the Second Empire of France from 1852 to 1870. Naively in 2005 I wrote a comparison between Napoleon III and Chavez, thinking that maybe it was as far as Chavez would go. We know better today and we also thus know that 54,XX% is not going to stop Chavez. Actually it will strengthen his resolve not to be challenged ever again by destroying inside Venezuela what needs to be destroyed. But that is for another post.
The rough number
As it has become clear form other posts of this series, that 8 million plus is not as mighty as one may think. True, it is 10% more votes than in 2006 but that is around voters growth over 6 years. The opposition grew 50%, in spite of all the hurdles. That detail has not escaped the autocrat.
Another thing that has not escaped the autocrat is that in 2006 he did not need to buy his victory. This time around, direct vote purchase can be counted in the 100 of thousand. This in addition to propaganda as never before, hysterical social programs that cannot be sustained and a media stranglehold that he did not benefit from in 2006. Let's not forget that in 2006 there was still one nationwide critical open TV broadcast station that covered ALL of the country (redundancy intended). Today there is only ONE station which is critical of Chavez and whose open broadcast covers only Caracas and Valencia. For at least a third of the country's population there is no critical commenting on Chavez in the air waves, only state propaganda. The other two thirds of the country can have limited access to criticism, preferably if they are willing to pay for cable TV.
Chavez's victory is not one of strength, but one of fear. The kind of imposed electoral victory that is found only in dictatorships.